Kaplan teachers at all three Manhattan branches made history recently by signing the first union contract for teachers in the ESL industry. They joined a small group of instructors in the for-profit education industry to work under a union contract. The contract, backed by the New York Newspaper Guild, is significant considering that the ESL (English as a second langauge) industry is recognized as highly unorganized, unregulated and dysfunctional.
Although the victory for Kaplan New York teachers is somewhat bitter-sweet considering the new contract excludes some of their demands, it is also a step in the right direction. Kaplan New York teachers were successful in securing wage hikes, an increase in prep time pay, ‘just cause’ language for terminations, a company paid subsidy towards the cost of health insurance and eligibility to participate in a matching 401K contribution. This is quite impressive considering how notoriously greedy the ESL industry is.
It’s been a long two-year battle for Kaplan teachers and hats off to them for their grit, solidarity and courage. They should be recognized not only in the ESL industry, but in all industries across North America as an example of what can be accomplished if workers come together and work towards a common goal. As a person that has worked in ESL and adjuncted for colleges during the past seven years, I raise my glass and salute them.
However, the Kaplan victory should not be seen as an end, but the opening of a new door of opportunity and hope for teachers in the for-profit sector throughout North America. If they were successful, then there is no reason that teachers in other institutions cannot also achieve better working conditions and pay. Moreover, it should be noted that Kaplan New York teachers are still on part-time status despite the new contract. Furthermore, the new contract is only guaranteed for two years and it can be assumed that Kaplan management is already working hard to deter a second one.
The first contract can be seen more or less by management to quiet the storm and alleviate concerns about the public image of Kaplan. It is up to current instructors throughout North America to not only maintain pressure on companies, such as Kaplan, but to expose the ESL industry as a whole. If you are an ESL teacher, adjunct instructor or just someone who sympathizes, please do not hesitate to contact me through this site.
Do you have experience teaching English abroad? How about writing for my blog or contributing teaching material. Please CLICK HERE to contact me.