Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the English Works Campaign awarded the first 'City of Boston/ English Works Campaign Certificate of Recognition' to 11 unique local businesses and labor management partnerships for their support of English language classes for immigrants in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Other key labor, community, and educational partners were also recognized.
On February 18th, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the English Works Campaign awarded the first 'City of Boston/ English Works Campaign Certificate of Recognition' to 11 unique local businesses and labor management partnerships for their support of English language classes for immigrants in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Other key labor, community, and educational partners were also recognized.
At a dynamic press conference held at Wainwright Bank & Trust that included over 80 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) student-employees; business executives, labor and community leaders, the Mayor commended these businesses, unions and their community partners for investing in Boston’s immigrant workforce, even in the toughest of economic times.
The Awardees were:
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (JVS, partner)
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (English On-Site, partner)
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital (JVS, partner)
- Federal Management (Educational Development Group, partner)
- Greater Boston Hotel Employees Local 26 Health and Welfare Fund
- John Nagle Co. (Notre Dame Educational Center, partner)
- Massachusetts Convention Center Authority/UGL UNICCO/SEIU615
- Massachusetts General Hospital (JVS, partner)
- PICCO Restaurant (Centro Latino de Chelsea, partner)
- Tufts Medical Center (Asian American Civic Assoc., partner)
- Wainwright Bank & Trust Company (YMCA Training Inc., partner)
Currently, one in five workers in Massachusetts, and one in three in Boston is an immigrant. Thirty percent of Boston’s population is foreign-born, as is 35 percent of the City’s workforce. About seven in ten of those workers statewide, numbering close to half of a million, need increased availability of and access to English
language programs. The English Works Campaign actively promotes partnerships between the private and public sectors, and businesses and labor to provide high-quality English language programs for the MA workforce.
In presenting the awards, Mayor Menino said the City is proud and grateful to the businesses and labor management partnerships and asked them and others to stay focused on developing solutions: "I'm proud that the City of Boston has such strong partners in the ESOL community," Mayor Menino said. "The work that these organizations perform for our immigrants is about more than English language classes. The strength of these award winners comes from the fact that they are helping to build better communities by investing in the immigrant workforce. In these difficult economic times, it is critical that business leaders understand the value of improving the English language skills of their employees. It's not only the smart thing to do; it's also the right thing."
The English Works Campaign solicited nominations of businesses and labor-management partnerships supporting ESOL classes for the immigrant workforce as part of its effort to increase private investment in addressing the need for English language classes. “Through this recognition, we hope to encourage businesses and unions across the Commonwealth to follow the example of their peers. These are shared needs and must be shared solutions,” said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the MIRA Coalition. The Campaign hopes to launch similar Certificate programs across the state with local and state officials.
Together the organizations receiving Certificates of Recognition provided English classes to approximately 513 individuals in the last year. Awardees span five industries (health care, hospitality, property management, financial, and food distribution/processing). They range from very small businesses like the Picco Restaurant in the South End where the owner covered for the staff while they went to class, to four of the largest employers in Massachusetts, which often include ESOL in their overall workforce development strategies along with career coaching, and technical and computer classes.
The partnerships offer English classes during the work day, between shifts, after work; at the worksite and at community learning centers. All the businesses have worked with ESOL providers to tailor English curriculum to real work scenarios and vocabulary, with some programs offering as many as six different levels. Most also avoid the use of “English Only” policies, instead providing the tools for workers to improve their ability to communicate with co-workers, supervisors, customers and patients.
Bienvenida Feliz, an assistant branch manager at Wainwright Bank and a resident of Hyde Park who traveled to a class paid for by the bank and offered by the YMCA through its Communicate@Work program spoke about how the opportunity helped her to improve her English speaking and writing abilities at work.
"This is a great opportunity for me," she said. "My fellow co-workers and I look forward to continuing these classes with the support and encouragement of Wainwright Bank."
Dr. Gary Gottlieb, President, Brigham and Women's Hospital, said that offering English classes is central to BWH’s forward-thinking staff development plan. “ESOL is a vital program in our overall workforce development plan at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where we want to support our employees by providing them with the skills they need to perform at their personal best and give them every opportunity to advance in our organization,” said Gottlieb.
George A. Keches, President, UGL Unicco, said his company’s investment was an investment in Boston’s future.“The City of Boston’s English language for immigrants initiatives have become a cornerstone of UGL Unicco’s support of the Boston community,” said Keches. “Not only do the City’s efforts and those of the English Works Campaign directly impact our employees by opening new opportunities for them, they provide the basis for Boston to continue to be a world-class, culturally diverse and dynamic community in the future.”
Cleve Killingsworth, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA said that the English language classes they’ve offered to employees since 2001 are part of the company’s commitment to diversity within BCBSMA and the community "At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, we believe that providing all employees opportunities to thrive and grow professionally fosters a culture that respects and leverages everyone's best capabilities," said Killingsworth. "This award recognizes not only the success of our ESL training initiative – it also reflects our belief in the importance of diversity, as key to achieving our business goals and adhering to our corporate values. We are honored to receive this award and applaud our associates for supporting our commitment to diversity in the organization and in the community."
Peter L. Slavin, President of Massachusetts General Hospital, was pleased to receive the award and described the key role that ESOL classes have played in the hospital’s approach to a supporting a diverse, multi-lingual staff and patient community for nearly a decade and a half. "The MGH is honored to receive this recognition from the City of Boston for our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). This program began 14 years ago to help our employees achieve success and advance their careers with us. Today, we can see the results. Managers who have graduated from our program now refer their employees to the classes. By supporting a multilingual, multicultural workforce, the MGH is helping our diverse workforce and is better prepared to meet the needs of our diverse patient population and their loved ones."
Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center added: “By providing English language classes on-site at the medical center, we are pleased to make it easier for our employees to improve their English and advance their careers.” Mayor Menino also praised the collaboration between labor and management to provide employee/members with English classes.
Donna Schnaible, Administrator of the Greater Boston Hotel Employees/Local 26 Trust Funds said that such collaboration was paramount to the success of the 21 partnering hotels, their employees and immigrant families. Schnaible said, "The trustees of the Greater Boston Hotel Employees/Local 26 Trust Funds strongly believe in a labor-management partnership that furthers the language skills of its employees. We have provided access to English classes to our members for over 20 years. This type of partnership is absolutely critical to meeting the demands of the hospitality industry, and the needs of individual workers and their families." The English Works Campaign was launched in June 2008 at the Boston Medical Center, which offers English classes together with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and AFSCME Council 93. Six community based organizations were also recognized for their work engaging the business community and meetings the needs of the immigrant community.
Juan Vega, Executive Director of Centro Latino de Chelsea and also a member of the English Works Leadership Circle member said that immigrants are a critical resource to Massachusetts. “We all know that immigrants keep our hospitals and health care institutions, hotels and restaurants, running every day. Immigrants are helping to drive our economy forward. As part of Centro Latino de Chelsea's mission to serve the immigrant community of Chelsea and Greater Boston, we look to businesses as key partners in providing English, education and training. We and our partner, the PICCO Restaurant, recognize the equation and seek to find our common interests. PICCO's goal in sending offering English classes to kitchen staff was to help the employees make better lives for themselves. That is our goal also.”
Warren Pepicelli, a member of the Leadership Circle and International Vice President of UNITE HERE! New England Joint Board stated, "The New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE! represents over 10,000 workers. Our membership includes thousands of immigrant families here in Massachusetts. There are many challenges facing immigrant workers and their families- challenges that we all share as a Commonwealth. We are facing economic uncertainties and outsourcing of jobs, while the baby-boom generation is leaving the workforce through retirement. It is critical for the economy and for the working families of Massachusetts, that we all do our part in investing in the skills and opportunities of our working families. We at UNITE/HERE are proud of the English language programs that we run in partnerships with many employers in Massachusetts. We urge all industries and all businesses to invest in the skills and talents of workers, and commit to English language programs for their employees."
The English Works Campaign is a unique coalition of community, labor, business, and civic leaders, working together to provide all residents in MA with a pathway to self-sufficiency, ensure a stable, skilled workforce, and integrate immigrants into the fabric of the MA economy, community, and civic life.
The English Works Campaign is led statewide by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and locally by the English for New Bostonians Initiative.