For union activists, nothing will ever be able to replicate the value of in-person learning but the IAM wants to make sure all members have access to education. That’s why the Machinists Union is offering Leadership I classes online in 2022.
“While I think we all prefer in-person classes, I believe that the real question isn’t whether in-person classes are better than online classes, it’s whether online classes are better than nothing,” said Mary McHugh, Assistant Director of the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center. “We probably all agree that the answer to that question is yes.”
Like so many, the Machinists Union had to turn to technology when the world shut down because of COVID-19 in 2020. Astutely, the IAM created online programs in order to continue to reach its members. But what started as a solution to the dire situation brought on by the pandemic has now become an opportunity for many.
“District Lodge 751 Directing Business Representative Jon Holden contacted us about a year ago to encourage us to offer Leadership I online,” explained McHugh. “He wanted members to be able to take Leadership I during the pandemic, but also saw online programs as a way to bring leadership training to members who might not have the opportunity to attend in-person training once the school reopened again. We ran four Leadership I online programs in 2021 and realized quickly that this really was an opportunity to reach some members we hadn’t been able to reach in the past.”
Lobsterwoman Julie Eaton of the Maine Lobstering Union Local 207 is a perfect example of someone who benefited from online classes. Eaton took Leadership I online last summer and is excited to be able to have that option again for the next installment because it’s just not always possible for her, or other fishermen, to leave their jobs for a week at a time.
“Julie is just the start,” said Chris Wagoner, Director of the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center. “For those members who come from locals that can’t send every member who is interested, or for members who have difficulty taking that block of time away from work, or for our brothers and sisters who aren’t able to travel because of personal reasons, this allows them to be able to take advantage of all the Machinists Union has to offer.”
The IAM is convinced that offering these online options will supplement the vast resources already available to our union family, making education accessible in every corner of our union. It gives our locals and districts another tool to expand their education toolboxes.
Right now, there are three Leadership I online classes on the schedule for 2022, January 10-20, June 6-16, and November 28-December 8, with a pilot program for Leadership II online running from August 8-August 18. Members can enroll through the same registration link used for in-person programs.