Dec 1, 1997
Keeton, founder of CAEL, which adminsters CWA education programs at Bell Atlantic and U S West, in presenting the award pointed out that as president of CWA, Bahr, "has raised education and job training to the top of the collective bargaining agenda, expanding educational programs to more than 250,000 CWA members."
His own education interrupted by the Second World War, Bahr resumed his studies part-time in 1981 at Empire State College, State University of New York, while he was District 1 vice president.
Earning 64 credits for prior life experience gave him a big jump toward the 120 required for a bachelors' degree. He graduated in 1983.
"The experience changed my life," he said.
A year later AT&T divested itself of the Bell System. And the following year Bahr became CWA president.
"We had entered a fiercely competitive marketplace," he noted. "No longer could we give workers job security. We had to give them employment security. And the only way you can do that is through education."
That notion in 1986 spawned the Alliance for Employee Growth and Development, a cooperative venture of AT&T, CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. More than 26,000 workers accounted for 70,000 course enrollments in the collectively bargained program in 1996 alone.
Today, CWA members enjoy a wide range of education benefits, most gained through collective bargaining, with most of the union's major employers.
The Alliance and Pathways to the Future, CWA's education program at
U S West, are administered by independent non-profit corporations with both union leaders and management sitting on their boards of directors. In addition to their funding through the collective bargaining process, their independent non-profit status allows them to apply for funding from private foundations.
Pathways provides unlimited tuition, fees and books for two- or four-year degree programs and for essential skills courses, and up to $2,100 per year for vocational school, CWA Leadership School and other training. Thirty-six percent of bargaining unit employees enrolled over the course of CWA's 1992-1995 contract with U S West, and members rate the program one of their most important union-negotiated benefits.