History of the National Labor College

History of the National Labor College

In 1969 the AFL-CIO, under the direction of  President George Meany, founded a labor studies center to promote education and training opportunities for union leadership and rank-and-file members. Recognizing the potential value and importance of an education and training center to the further development of trade unionism, the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO decided to locate a suitable permanent campus for the pursuit of labor studies.  George Meany personally oversaw the purchase of a 47-acre site in suburban Silver Spring, Maryland.  This site dates back three centuries. At the time of purchase by the AFL-CIO in September, 1971, it was owned and operated by a Roman Catholic religious order, the Xaverian Brothers.

On November 6, 1974, the George Meany Center for Labor Studies was formally dedicated and opened. This also marked the beginning of a program of undergraduate degree offerings. The Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labor Studies was launched through a partnership with Antioch College. For over 20 years union member students who successfully completed the required course work at the George Meany Center received an Antioch College undergraduate degree.

The growth of the Antioch undergraduate program and the continued development of the Center as a focal point for union leadership training led to the expansion of campus facilities. In 1976, Hoehler Hall was built to expand residential capacity for students enrolled in courses at the Center.  In 1987, the George Meany Memorial Archives building was opened. The Archives serve as an important resource for research by scholars and members of the general public.

The George Meany Center was constantly updating and improving its program to meet the changing needs of working men and women. In the mid 1990s, it became apparent that the time was due for an independent college that could grant degrees and provide the educational experience vital to the economic advancement of organized workers.  Under the leadership of AFL-CIO President, John Sweeney, in 1997, the Center was formally authorized to grant baccalaureate degrees by the State of Maryland Higher Education Commission and became an independent institution of higher learning.

In 1999, the University of Baltimore began offering graduate degree programs on the GMC-NLC campus. These programs are specifically tailored to the needs of GMC-NLC students.

In 2000, the formal name of the institution was changed to George Meany Center for Labor Studies - the National Labor College (GMC-NLC) in recognition of the institution’s origins and its promise for the future of the labor movement.

In March 2004, GMC-NLC was granted accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104; (267-284-5000). The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.  Accreditation is recognition that the institution meets all of the Commission’s standards for excellence and is a culmination of a rigorous four-year evaluation process.

Shortly thereafter, in July 2004, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to change the name of the institution to the National Labor College, reflecting its evolution from a training center to an accredited degree-granting college.

During this time the college embarked on an ambitious, $40 million campus expansion and renovation program that included opening a new residence facility and breaking ground on the new Lane Kirkland Center, a 70,000 square foot facility that will feature new classrooms, a distance learning center, dining hall and administrative offices.

Statue of Xavieran Brother

Statue of St. Francis Xavier near cafeteria entrance