Kaplan English teachers vote Guild, despite intense campaign


HAPPY DAY - Kaplan ESL teachers and New York Guild officers and staff celebrate moments after a June 7 NLRB-run election showed that they chose Guild representation by a 2-1 margin. Front row from left, Nicole van Beek, Jon Blanchette, Niki St. Clair, Shana Dagenhart and Paul Hlava. Back row, Guild President Bill O’Meara, Toby Cahn, Benjamin Bush, Michaela Bucklin-Lane, Guild organizer Nastaran Mohit, Guild Secretary-Treasurer Peter Szekely and Guild Representative Anthony Napoli.  

Pay rates as low as U.S. minimum wage

New York City-based teachers of English as a second language at the Washington Post Co.'s  educational subsidiary, Kaplan Inc., voted today for workplace representation by the Guild, becoming the company’s first U.S. employees to unionize.Kaplan International Center's facility in Manhattan's East Village

In a government-supervised election, the teachers, based at the three Manhattan facilities of Kaplan International Centers, voted for the Guild by a 2-1 margin (56 to 28), despite an intense anti-union campaign by management that included a steady stream of leaflets and regular work-time meetings with managers and outside consultants, all urging them to vote no.

“These are professional employees, many with masters degrees, who are paid at an assortment of illogical hourly rates as low as the $7.25 federal minimum wage,” said Guild President Bill O'Meara. “They know they should be treated better and they deserve a lot of credit for maintaining their focus through Kaplan's incredibly intense campaign.”

The National Labor Relations Board, which conducted the election, is expected to certify the Guild as the bargaining agent for the group of about 95 teachers after seven days. No other Kaplan teachers in the United States are union-represented. The results require Kaplan to bargain in good faith with the Guild for a contract covering the teachers’ employment terms.

A group of the Kaplan ESL teachers approached the Guild several months ago seeking help not only in raising their pay, but in bringing some clarity to their confusing compensation system and in getting benefits, like paid time off for sickness and vacations.

“This is, of course, a great day for teachers at Kaplan,” said Kaplan teacher Danny Valdes. “But I hope that this shows teachers that we can increase standards industry-wide by coming together to organize.”

New York-based Kaplan Inc., with $2.5 billion in revenues last year, was founded in 1938 by Stanley Kaplan and provides higher education programs, professional training courses, test preparation materials and language instruction around the world.

Kaplan teachers and Guild officers and staffers moments before the counting of June 7 election
BEFORE THE COUNT - Anxiety and optimism were both in abundant supply before the votes were counted at Kaplan’s Empire State Building facilities on June 7. From left, Michaela Bucklin-Lane, Paul Hlava, Guild organizer Nastaran Mohit, Niki St. Clair, Michelle Roberts, Steven Beck, Guild Secretary-Treasurer Peter Szekely, Nicole van Beek (partly obscured), Viveca Gardner (partly obscured) and Guild mobilizer Bob Daraio.

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