While we at the UW-Madison School for Workers can’t wait to hold in-person classes again, our move to online programming has made labor education more accessible to a wider variety of union members. With no travel time or costs, and with little-to-no lost time expenses, unions across the U.S. and Canada have recognized that cost and geography are no longer barriers to participating in our training programs.
A great example was our recent Essentials of Union Leadership class, a three-week online institute that ran from February 22 through March 14. A variety of unions participated, from places both near and far. Of course, many of the students were from Wisconsin: we had IBEW members from Eau Claire and Madison, a nurse from Ashland, Steelworkers from Green Bay, a Boilermaker from Sturgeon Bay, an IAM member from the Fox Valley, members of IFPTE (International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers) from Cudahy, and an AFM member – that’s American Federation of Musicians – from Milwaukee. However, we had many out-of-state students from near and very far, some of whom would never have had the opportunity to take a School for Workers class if it hadn’t been online. We had students from Indiana (one from the Boilermakers and one from IBEW), firefighters from Illinois, a Steelworker from Ohio, a rural letter carrier from Texas, and even an OPEIU nurse from Hawaii! Many of these students also enrolled in our subsequent “Advanced Union Leadership” online institute.
Even before COVID-19, our Madison-based institutes attracted students from all over the United States and Canada. However, our online training enables us to reach even further – so even after we restart in-person classes, our online labor education programs will continue to extend our impact.