Twenty-five years after BCTGM member Jason Thomas graduated from high school, he decided to give college a shot. He was hooked after learning about the Union Plus Free College Program at a union convention. "I found out it was free, and thought, 'well, what’s my next step?'" Thomas recalls. Soon after enrolling, he achieved a professional goal.
Jason Thomas had worked at a bakery for 25 years when he decided to enroll in college classes. When he learned about the Union Plus Free College Program at the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) international convention in 2018, he decided it was it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.
"I found out it was free, and thought, 'well, what’s my next step?'" Thomas recalls.
In addition to his distribution foreman job at the bakery, Thomas was also working as a part-time business agent for his BCTGM local union. Thomas, who has a 20-year-old daughter attending college, places a high value on education and wanted to utilize the unique opportunity to earn a degree for himself.
The Union Plus Free College Program partners with AFSCME and Eastern Gateway Community College to offer online courses and degree programs with no out of pocket cost to active or retired union members and their eligible family members, including spouses and children.
Thomas was soon taking classes towards a Business Management associate degree with a focus on Labor Studies.
"I’ve gotten an A in every class I’ve taken," Thomas says. "When I got the letter that I made honor roll, I thought, 'Wow, I did it.'"
Thomas especially appreciates the accessibility of online classes.
"I like it, I really enjoy it," he says. "I can go at my own pace."
In April, Thomas began a new job as a BCTGM international business agent and organizer. He believes that a college degree will contribute to his career with the union and regularly recommends the Free College program to friends and coworkers.
"If it’s free, you might as well take advantage of it," he says.
Unemployed, furloughed and laid off union workers and their extended families are eligible to enroll. To learn more about the Union Plus Free College Program and how to apply, visit unionplusfreecollege.org or call (888) 590-9009.
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