The Role of Labor Unions and an Educated Workforce

October 17, 2013
Dr. Leonard Golubchick, Adjunct Professor of Education, Metropolitan College of New York, Long Island
University,  St. Johns University

The role of Labor in impacting the education of the workforce cannot be underestimated. Today it is imperative for persons entering the workforce and those already in the workforce to iterate their educational goals and to act on these goals. Unions must meet the challenge of the workplace which demands collaboration, cooperation and communication (both orally and written). It behooves union leadership to transform the mission of unions so as to provide the leadership in order to enhance the skill sets of their members and future members.

This involves establishing educational programs for the workforce who will also guarantee not only an educated union member but also aid in the growth of union membership as well as our Nation’s  economic future.

All studies indicate that there is a direct correspondence to income and educational attainment. It must be noted that education is directly connected to outcomes in life. This is evident with current economic pressures. A recent report by the Hamilton Project which is linked to the Brookings Institution in September of 2012 entitled ,”A dozen Economic Facts about k-12 Education”, highlights the importance of education and its impact on the Nations’ well-being. The report found that many of our young people are not receiving the skills necessary to be successful in our economy. The report points out the extensive and growing gap between the more educated and less educated. One glaring item the report notes is that less educated members of our society ( drop-outs, non-academic track in High School and no College or trade training)will more than likely raise their own children in poverty. In addition, the report demonstrates that students who do not graduate high school are less likely to attain employment beyond a minimum wage. This exacerbates the issue of disparity between groups of people and accelerates the decline of folks entering the middle class.

The study also further indicates that those who are incarcerated are more likely to be without a high school diploma. Also a person without a high school diploma is more likely to receive public assistance than one with a high school diploma and a college diploma. Those folks who do not have high school diplomas are 8 times more likely to receive disability benefits than those with a high school diploma.

In addition, even though Americans are among the most educated in the world, young Americans are ranked 15th in college completion rates. This drop in college completion rates has impacted our economy negatively and has led to a decrease in overall wages. Today, both spouses and parents must work to make ends meet. American families’ saw a 23% increase in earnings between 1975 and 2009, but at the same time the amount of hours worked and days worked jumped 26%.

Overall, improving educational opportunities is vital to the economic growth of our Nation. Unions should be an integral part of the movement to upgrade and enhance educational opportunities of Americans. Today’s workplace and our democracy demands and educated populace in order to maintain America’s position as a world leader.   Unions must be in the forefront of the educational movement. Unions should retool as our workplaces must by developing educational programs through GED programs, training programs, and collaboratives with high schools and colleges. Unions should develop opportunity zones in order to enhance the skills of its members while at the same time developing the skills of the future workforce.                            

October 16, 2013

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