By establishing the physical and intellectual space for the labor movement to imagine its future, the mission of the NLC is to make higher education available to workers, to prepare union members, leaders and staff for the challenges of a changing global environment; and to serve as a center for progressive thought and learning.
Vision and Values
Since its inception in the 19th century, the American labor movement has placed great emphasis on education. In 1969 the leaders of this movement founded the George Meany Center, which became the National Labor College, in order to offer the high quality education and training programs necessary to produce a diverse movement of working men and women dedicated to a more equitable and just society.
The contemporary labor movement faces the twin challenges of rapid technological change and a hostile political environment, which have together produced a long-term decline in union density. In recognition of these challenges, another critical role of the NLC is to explore labor’s often underappreciated role in the development of a stable middle class in the world’s most prosperous society and to transmit the values of the movement to all workers, especially younger people who may not know of labor’s essential role in the development of this society.
The labor movement’s values that are embodied today at the NLC are the same values that first brought working people together in a common movement to advance and protect their interests in the spheres of politics, economics and culture. Among these values are the following:
- Labor is the source of all wealth
- There is honor and dignity in all work
- Working people should have equal protection under the law and the freedom to bargain collectively to advance and protect their interests
- Education is the key to a free and democratic labor movement
- Democratic trade unions are essential to economic justice and to a free and democratic society
- For working people to fully realize their potential and that of their children, they must have equal access to high quality education at all levels
- Labor arts and culture are an essential part of education, as they provide the labor movement with its soul and spirit