Labor Reform Movement: August 10, 2012

The National Labor College has shut down, after Costing
the AFL–CIO Millions of Dollars in Subsidies Annually
Union members weren’t told the extent of the financial problem

By Harry Kelber

Faced with diminishing membership and declining revenue, the AFL-CIO is selling the site of its accredited institution of higher learning, the National Labor College, on prime acres, ripe for development in Silver Springs, Md. The campus was purchased by the AFL-CI0 about 40 years ago.

The NLC has for years served as a training center for many unions (I taught several classes of Laborers’ leaders there), and I noted it provided good overnight accommodations. But as it expanded its facilities, it required greater subsidies from the unions. At one point, it placed AFL-CIO losses in the red for millions of dollars. It has not been a self-sustaining institution, although it has also been the venue for important conferences and ceremonials.

The College has been running annual deficits of more than 6 million. Critics say it has been terribly mismanaged. An ill-fated partnership on distance learning with the Princeton Review added to its difficulties.

What About the Future of the Labor College?

It makes sense to maintain the college as a training center as it originally was. The idea of offering only online courses creates many problems. Most courses in the labor movement require direct human contact, like union organizing, health and safety, and similar courses. There should be a debate between those who favor online courses and those who are skeptical of their value.

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Certainly, in the global economy, we need a new approach to worker education, especially about how we respond to technological advances that call for changes in work practices.

The American Labor Reform Movement will initiate a special study on the changes now taking place. in various industries. If you want to join the study and plan how it will proceed, submit your name and relevant info to our email at