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Penn Foster selected for union workers online college

03.15.10

MARCH 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Penn Foster selected for union workers online college

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC recently announced that along with the National Labor College and the Princeton Review an online college for union members and their families will be created and it will result in hiring at a local employer.

The new online college, called the “College for Working Families,” is intended to expand job opportunities for union members by providing education and job training.

According to Antoinette Yachna, a steward and member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 5652, which represents employees of Penn Foster on Oak Street in Scranton, a subsidiary of the Princeton Review, her employer will receive work because of the online college, and the employer will hire more workers because of the AFL-CIO agreement with the National Labor College.

The college will be the first and only accredited degree-granting online institution devoted exclusively to educating union members. Courses will be offered beginning this fall including those in criminal justice, health sciences, education, and business.

Ms. Yachna told the newspaper the USW represents approximately 210 workers of Penn Foster at the Oak Street facility and around 55 workers at their warehouse in Ransom Township.

She has been employed by the correspondence course school for more than 26 years and stated they are a good employer that treats their employees withrespect. “Our four-year contract with Penn Foster will expire in July,” said Ms. Yachna.

Bob English, USW District 10 Staff Representative, told the newspaper Penn Foster was chosen among around six to become partners with Princeton Review to provide online courses for union members. “The main thing is union members will benefit from the relationship,” said Mr. English after being contacted by the newspaper.

Mr. English stated he has been involved with contract negotiations with the employer for more than 15 years. He said negotiations for a successor agreement will soon begin to replace the current three-year pact.

“For the most part they are a good employer. And when it was narrowed down to only two, we believed Penn Foster should get the contract because the other company was nonunion.”

Penn Foster got its start in 1890 when the company first provided correspondence courses by mail on coal mining safety. Currently the company provides online courses to 220,000 students. The company for many decades was known as ICS but the name has changed several times over the past ten years because it has been sold four times.

According to a letter sent to employees of Penn Foster by Michael Perik, the President of Penn Foster, it is great news the company was selected by the National Labor College as its partner in a joint online education venture.

“The College for Working Families is perfectly aligned with our mission of helping people achieve their educational goals in an affordable and accessible manner. It will enable working adults to build on their prior training and experience, to ensure that their skills will match employers’ requirements in an evolving job market. Moreover, it is backed by the power of the AFL-CIO, who will be critical in ensuring that the couses meet students’ real-world needs,” states Mr. Perik.

Mr. English stated there is much yet to be done before the courses will be available. He said the company and AFL-CIO will need to work together to market the course availablity to the 11.5 million union members and their families that are affiliated with the labor federation. “Counting family members, you are talking about more than 30 million people that can receive the courses,” said Mr. English.

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