University of California strike is massive example of how Golden State problems are warning to rest of nation

University of California strike is massive example of how Golden State problems are warning to rest of nation

Out-of-control spending at universities adds to California’s looming $25 billion deficit

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Once again, California is showing us the future — and it’s wracked with labor strife, high prices, government bloat and abject failure. And nowhere is this more apparent than in California’s government education system.   

Some 48,000 unionized graduate student workers at 10 University of California campuses went on strike three weeks ago, demanding "significantly higher wages, expanded childcare subsidies, enhanced health coverage and other benefits," according to a CalMatters report. 

Meanwhile, government elementary schools in the lockdown-happy state dominated by teachers unions saw math and reading test scores plummet.  

These problems connect to the larger left-wing project across the nation, portending failure elsewhere.  

Student wears a mask while on the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Berkeley, California.  (Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

In the 1970s, America saw a huge uptick in union strikes as double-digit inflation under President Jimmy Carter eroded wages. The higher wages won by unions in turn fed into more inflation since productivity gains didn’t cover the increase in pay. It was a vicious cycle that pushed some manufacturing to foreign lands.  

California is seeing the same phenomenon, leading the nation with the largest strike this year due, in part, to it being America’s third-most-expensive state in which to live. It trails only Hawaii and Massachusetts, with prices for basic necessities like rent, gasoline, electricity and food averaging some 39% higher than the national average.  

With inflation at 40-year highs, people are finding it harder to makes ends meet. As a result, labor strikes, like the one in the University of California system, will become more widespread. 

The vaunted UC system employs 48,000 unionized students to teach, grade papers, and conduct research. That might make some wonder what it is exactly that tenured professors do all day other than dream up new woke nightmares to visit upon the nation in coming years. As underemployed as professors might be, university administrators are far less productive.  

By 2014, administrators at UC campuses outnumbered faculty, having grown by 60% over a decade during which student enrollment increased by 22% and the number of faculty went up by 8%. A study at UC Berkeley found 11 layers of management with 471 managers in charge of just one person. The number of direct reports per supervisor in the private sector ranges from six to 11. There’s a good chance a few of those 471 managers are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) chiefs with a social media assistant.  

Is it any wonder that inflation-adjusted tuition at state-run universities almost tripled from 2000 to 2020?  

This administrative bloat has been fed by virtually limitless federal student loans with almost 43 million borrowers now owing more than $1.7 trillion. According to Andrew Gillen, Ph.D., a senior policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the average student graduating with a bachelor’s degree carries almost $24,000 in debt. 

With the UC system under increased pressure to not hike tuition, and with California’s budget outlook swinging from an almost $100 billion surplus to a projected $25 billion deficit, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and the legislature will have to look elsewhere. One rich source of money for the University of California are foreign students — specifically those from the People’s Republic of China. California played host to 161,000 foreign students in 2020, 15% of the nation’s total. Nationally, 35% of foreign students hail from communist China. Foreign students pay full tuition — in the upcoming school year, nonresidents will pay $46,326 in tuition vs. $13,752 for California residents.  

With the UC system under increased pressure to not hike tuition, and with California’s budget outlook swinging from an almost $100 billion surplus to a projected $25 billion deficit, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and the legislature will have to look elsewhere.

But a problem with students from communist China is that they are, by Chinese law, expected to spy for their homeland — and in California’s case, with its vast, sprawling federally funded research complexes, spy they do, stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of intellectual property and defense secrets.  

Will California take a hard line on its government employee unrest, or will it give in?  

In all likelihood, surrender is on the table. One key commander in this struggle is former Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez who, in 2020, infamously tweeted "F--- Elon Musk" after Musk threatened to move his Tesla operations out of California because of that state’s crushing COVID-19 lockdowns and smothering regulatory environment.  

Musk followed through on his threat a year later, moving to Texas while Gonzalez, tired of serving in the legislature, left office before she termed out to become head of the California Labor Federation. From that perch, she’s swung the 1,200 affiliated unions she commands behind the graduate student strike, now joined by hundreds of senior faculty who announced a work stoppage Nov. 28 (just in time for final exams). 

Should the strike succeed, observers have warned of higher tuition, increased class sizes and faculty layoffs. But this is the progressive model of governance: pay more, get less.  

Chuck DeVore is a vice president with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, was elected to the California legislature, is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and the author of the new book, "Crisis of the House Never United."