Originally published on October 17, 2013 in the Hartford Business Journal
The 90 Kaplan English language instructors who voted to unionize last year thought it would lead to higher pay and benefits. But 17 months later, the union and Kaplan have yet to agree on a contract, and nothing for them has changed. All their hopes are pinned on their next negotiations on Oct. 25.
Emily Lessem, 29, who has taught English to foreign students for nearly two years, was one of the instructors who joined the union in June 2012. Like the other instructors, she only works 30 hours a week and is considered part time. This means she doesn’t get benefits, a strategy that the union said Kaplan employs on purpose.
But Lessem still gets paid $17 an hour for her in-class teaching time. For the rest of the job, which involves grading and lesson planning, she is paid New York’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. She doesn’t get paid for sick days, vacation days or holidays. And there’s no healthcare insurance.
Her take-home pay for the year is about $23,000, not enough to pay the bills, she says. “I really enjoy teaching ESL but I’ve been very frustrated with the working conditions,” she said. “I’ve been really cheated out of a lot of money and benefits.”
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