The University of Missouri-Kansas City, faced with severe budget reductions from the state legislature, has cut the position of Director of the Worker Education & Labor Studies (WELS) Program. UALE member Judy Ancel, who held that position for almost 30 years, is the only staff member of WELS, so this cut has effectively terminated the whole program.
According to a UMKC spokesman, the unversity is "...currently investigating less costly options to keep the certificate program open....", but with its one staff member gone it is unclear what those options might be.
The program will be geatly missed by the labor movement in Kansas City.
According to Diane Stafford of the Kansas City Star,
"Union leaders say the non-degree program provided the only college-caliber training in workforce issues available to union members who haven’t received the same higher education as their management counterparts...
'Without her and the labor studies program, we wouldn’t be where we are today,' said Pat Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO. 'She’s provided the education we need since there’s always been a disadvantage for organized labor.'"
This is not the first time WELS has had to fight for its existence. In 2011, the program was targeted in a smear campaign by Andrew Breitbart. He released a video purporting to show that Ancel, and colleague Don Giljum at UMSL, condoned violence in labor organizing. However, an investigation by the University found that Ancel and Giljum had been framed, their words purposefully distorted by deceitful editing.
According to Ancel, she herself is ready to retire, but the program is more needed now than ever. The labor movement in Kansas city is fighting attacks on many fronts.
"The program will only be saved if the labor movement saves it. Right now they're fighting right to work by trying to repeal it in a citizen initiative. Everybody's out gathering signatures. On top of that we've got a governor who keeps calling special sessions of the legislature in order to get legislation through that he couldn't get passed in the regular session and that includes repealing prevailing wage and paycheck deception. They've already outlawed project labor agreements. So labor had a lot on its plate and limited resources."
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For more information
Background document from Judy Ancel: document What WELS does and why labor ed (703 KB)
Longtime labor educator at UMKC is out by Diane Stafford from Kansas City Star
Week in Review June 23 by Bill Onasch, from KC Labor blog