Members Awarded Degrees At
July 7, 2004
Kirk Brungard, Recording Secretary of Local 11 in Los Angeles, was disappointed that he couldnt make the long flight to Silver Spring, Maryland on June 26 to accept his Masters in Public Administration diploma from the National Labor College (NLC). Brungard, an IBEW member for 22 years, was there in spirit, cheering on Diana Limon, a compliance officer in Local 11, one of 9 IBEW members who joined 126 fellow unionists at graduation ceremonies. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Dr. Susan Schurman, President of the College, awarded the degrees.
"I encouraged Diana to attend, and I wanted to be there with her," states Brungard. "Shes exceptional. She was apprentice of the year and then served as a foreman for a local contractor. I know how hard she worked. I know that what she learned at the NLC will make her an even more impressive leader."
Limon, a Labor Studies major, says: "The positive learning environment and the commitment of my classmates to take their knowledge back to their organizations was phenomenal." All seniors must complete a research project -dealing with an issue affecting their union or the labor movement-to earn a B.A. degree. Limons paper focused on the process of getting non-union electrical contractors to subscribe to benefit trust funds established as part of a $11 billion Project Stabilization Agreement between the Orange County Building Trades and the employer, the Los Angeles Unified School District. Limon was awarded a distinguished paper award, along with IBEW members Eugene Parrington and Francis J. Cunningham. They presented the papers in a symposium prior to graduation. Abstracts for each paper are available online here. The papers will be permanently shelved in the George Meany Center library.
Brungard, who attended UCLA for a short period of time before entering his IBEW apprenticeship, says that he always regretted not being able to get his college degree. "I was at a conference and looked down at a guys NLC class ring and explored the program. The college prepared me well to go on to the Masters Program."
First established by the AFL-CIO in 1974 on a 47- acre site formerly owned and operated by the Xaverian Brothers, the George Meany Center for Labor Studies offered a Bachelors Degree in Labor Studies for over 20 years in association with Antioch College.
In the mid 1990s, the AFL-CIO approved the establishment of an independent labor college. The NLC was founded in 1997. In 2004, the college achieved full accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent, regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The college offers B.A. degrees in 7 major areas and over 70 intensive, week-long continuing education programs. A new Bachelor of Technical/Professional Studies degree will be offered beginning in the fall of 2004.
Students from dozens of AFL-CIO unions attend one -week sessions on campus, followed by six months of home study, communicating with instructors and other students over the Internet. The college awards credits for "experiential learning," that students acquire on the job, in apprenticeship training, in community activity and businesses or in their locals. (www.georgemeany.org).
Darrin E. Golden, (B.A.-Union Leadership and Administration and Labor Studies major) an organizer and business agent at Local 364 in Rockford, Illinois, is preparing to follow Brungard into the Masters Program, a partnership between the National Labor College and the University of Baltimore. Like the other graduates, he praised the college for bringing together "folks from different unions, giving us an opportunity to see beyond our own needs in the IBEW to discuss the common goals that we share with others." He sees the NJATC apprenticeship programs as a natural recruiting ground for future National Labor College students. Goldens senior project compared the organizational histories and cross influences of the Freemasons, the Knights of Labor and the IBEW.
Eugene Parrington, (B.A.-Union Administration and Governance and Labor Studies major), a business representative with Local 25, Long Island, New York, enjoyed learning about the "common threads" that run through our unions. Parringtons award-winning paper investigated the "Feasibility of Worksharing in the Construction Industry."
James Malley, (B.A.-Labor Safety and Health and Labor Studies) Recording Secretary of the Executive Board of Local 25, says: "This is a great college. Im trying to do my share to recruit more union members to attend." He is working with Greg Giebel, an instructor and former provost at the Meany Center, to enable Long Island unionists to apply credits from the areas Dowling College toward National Labor College degrees. Malleys senior project examined the need for additional compensation for asbestos abatement workers.
Marsha Steele, (B.A.-Labor Studies major) a 34-year IBEW member and Business Representative for Local 702 in West Frankfort, Illinois, is glad that she has finally completed her B.A. degree. But, she says, "Ill miss everyone I met at the five sessions that I attended. While I still think that the IBEW is Americas best union, after learning about so many other unions at the National Labor College, I know that we are all in this together." Steeles local represents an extremely diverse membership. Her senior project considered how to "put the spark" into "non-traditional" IBEW constituencies.
Arthur Hart, (B.A.-Labor Studies) is Assistant Training Coordinator for Local 134 in Chicago, Illinois. Hart wants to let more IBEW members know about the opportunities offered by NLC., particularly for unionists who have been out of school for a while. "Im 57 years old," Hart says, " Im thrilled to be the first college graduate in my family." Hes proud that his local arranged for the University of Illinois to offer courses that are accepted by the NLC, saving the union money on tuition. Harts senior project investigated methods for helping students who have attention deficit disorder succeed in the program.
Maurice King (B.A.-Labor Studies) was recruited to attend NLC by his mentor, Local 134 Vice President Russell Ponder, an NLC graduate "whose college work helped him become the first African-American to be elected to higher office in the local." King, a training instructor says: "The NLC staff, from teachers to janitors is 100 percent union. All of the professors have a tremendous passion for labor." Kings senior project compared the success of the locals full-time commercial construction apprenticeship program to the residential construction program that offers classes only at night.
Shad Etchason (B.A.-Union Leadership and Administration and Labor Studies) is President of Local 146 in Decatur, Illinois. Etchason says: "The NLC is an opportunity that everyone in the IBEW should consider. With the nations declining percentage of union members and the current administration in Washington, D.C., the college gives members tools to help reverse labors decline." Etchasons senior project looked at the spiraling health care costs facing IBEW locals and the relationship to national trends. Brother Etchason, who personally financed his tuition and books, is thankful for the help provided a Union Plus-National Labor College Scholarship.
Francis J. Cunningham, (B.A.- Labor Studies) is an "A" executive board member in Local 134. He says that NLC "reinforced my belief in unions." Cunninghams award-winning senior project researched the potential for a "A Retirement Alternative in the 21st Century for Workers in A Defined Benefit Program." Under his "phased retirement" proposal, workers above age 55 would continue to work part-time (3 or 4 day weeks depending upon their age) beyond their 30 -year retirement. They would receive one or two days pay from their Pension Plan to total 40 hours. Cunningham reasons that this plan would make an experienced pool of workers available for employers, protect government benefit programs from depletion and allow members to expand retirement earnings.