Economics is a field that most people think some other, special people somewhere have expertise in but they themselves don’t. Many of us find economic-theory concepts, and the language “experts” use when talking about economics, confusing. That confusion can make us feel powerless to change things. Also, we often have a hard time explaining to others (or even understanding for ourselves) exactly what the problem is with the mainstream way of thinking about economics, or how we would propose thinking about economics instead.
This course seeks to demystify economics and give us all the confidence and clarity to challenge economic ideas that get used to justify inequality and oppress working people.
The quest to reshape American society so that working people experience economic security, a political voice, and respect at work and in the community, has been ongoing for more than 200 years. Yet, it has received little attention in our country’s dominant narrative, our schools’ text books, and our popular cultural phenomena. As a result, generation after generation has come to maturity uninformed not only about labor struggles and achievements, but also about how our society has been impacted by these struggles. Without historical knowledge or historical consciousness, we face each challenge as if it has appeared on a blank whiteboard. Working women and men – and our organizations – start from scratch over and over again.
This course is designed not only to fill in the blanks of historical information – to tell the untold stories – but also to encourage forms of thinking that are historical and critical. We will explore such questions as: How was the past shaped by the organizations and actions of working people? What choices, decisions, and actions did working people take at key points in history, and with what consequences? How have those past struggles shaped our present situations? How can we use our deepening knowledge of the past to help us think about bringing about the future in which we want to live?
We will rely on an excellent book for our access to history: From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend by Priscilla Murolo. While part of our work will be uncovering historical information which is new to us, our focus will be on working collaboratively to build our thinking muscles. We will challenge ourselves and each other even as we support and encourage each other.
Get ready for the most exciting learning experience of your life!
Remember that movie? The one about the overworked, underpaid single mom who rallied her co-workers to unionize and created a better life for her family? Or the one about the unscrupulous union leader who took advantage of the members? Whether inspiring cheers or jeers, for as long as people have loved going to the movies, pop-culture depictions of unions and the working class have shaped perspectives of those portrayed.
In this course, we will watch films that have central themes of union activism and identity, in particular, race, gender and ethnicity. We will practice “active watching”–watching to understand and analyze the ways that workers and unions have been depicted in film. Together we will try to understand how these representations have shaped popular discourse, and discuss the risks and rewards of organizing portrayed through the lens of pop culture.
Themes and films for this class change every session, and classes feature guests from the films!
This class will explore the connection between workers’ interests and the various social issues that define today’s political and cultural discourse: abortion, climate change, guns, immigration, #MeToo, criminal justice/#BLM, and democracy. These issues often cause cleavages at work, all too often fueled by the media, and result in the erosion of solidarity. Yet, workers rarely have a space in which to think critically about the connection between the labor movement and issues like abortion, guns, criminal justice–and others that elites and the right-wing frame as “the culture wars.”
Each class will include a short lecture by an expert on each topic, followed by a facilitated discussion. Students will receive short readings on each topic before class. The class will encourage robust debate and analysis within a framework of the shared values that undergird the labor movement.
According to public opinion polling, support for Unions and the labor movement has never been higher. More than 60 million workers would join a Union today if they were able to do so. Unfortunately, employer opposition to Unions also continues to grow. A multi-million dollar consulting industry exists to discourage workers from organizing and to bust Unions before they even get started. Despite the risks involved and the intense effort required, workers continue to organize Unions and win contracts that provide a better life for themselves and their families. This course will explore best practices in Union organizing and contract campaigns and will explore the strategies workers use to come together and win.
The first part of this course focuses on the fundamentals of organizing campaigns for Union recognition. Students will learn how to organize and lead workers to victory through a traditional NLRB (or BMS) Union election campaign. This section of the class will focus on: the 4 criteria to win, how to anticipate the employer’s campaign of opposition, how to build trust and communications through an organizing committee and how to keep momentum going all the way to election. Students will also engage in the latest theories for organizing at scale through corporate campaigns, bargaining to organize, neutrality agreements and other strategies to win Union recognition.
During the final weeks students will learn how to organize and lead workers to victory in a contract campaign. Whether it is a first contract following an organizing campaign or a campaign for new contract standards, the skills from this section will help students learn how to build an effective and winning contract campaign. Building on the skills and strategies from earlier in the course, students will learn: the principles of campaign escalation, BATNA, and how to use research to find the leverage needed to win.
Immigration is more than a policy issue; it’s a political and emotional hot button that directly affects millions of people who work in every sector of the economy, many who are in our unions. Immigration is also an issue that can divide a room quickly, with people taking polar opposite positions without much discussion. And it’s what many people who are feeling anxious about their jobs, their pensions, and their economic future point to as the cause of that anxiety.
We will dissect all aspects of immigration in this class. You will learn what role immigration played in shaping the United States since its birth, and how the rules of who we allow in, and who we exclude have evolved over time. We will learn the current rules, how they impact workers, and explore why more than 11 million undocumented people reside in the US today. You will learn how employers manipulate the rules and benefit from the broken immigration system, and how we as worker advocates can fight back. By the end of the class, you will feel comfortable and confident talking about immigration from a workers’ rights perspective with your members, leaders, co-workers, family, friends and neighbors, as well as the press.
The labor movement and the working class are at a critical and challenging moment. Three billionaires own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans. Living standards are diminishing as working folks stretch stagnating wages to meet higher-than-ever educational, housing, child care, and health care costs. Income inequality is the highest it has been since the Great Depression.
MBA and Executive Leadership programs promise to teach those seeking personal advancement how to manage staff and facilitate meetings. But leadership is not management. This is a class for people who want to lead the movement, who want to advance the working class, and who want to change the world.
In this class, you will develop your leadership by growing relationships. You will explore your identity and create your personal narrative. You will practice one to ones and difficult conversations. You will identify traits that enhance and detract from effective leadership. You will talk with union sisters, brothers, and siblings about their best practices and most difficult challenges. And you will engage in deep debate about how we build and inclusive and unified labor movement.
Whether it's World War II or the Stock Market Crash of 2008, politicians from Winston Churchill to Rahm Emanuel have said, "Never let a crisis go to waste." What do these leaders mean by this statement and what are the implications for working people? This short course will examine the political and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare, unions, communities of color, the environment, and voting. We will discuss current events and examine other pandemics to understand how leadership can shape the moment, for better or worse.
The successful outcome of Collective Bargaining is derived through successful planning and skill but driven by the strength of the membership. In this weeklong course you will learn, plan, and execute collective bargaining strategies to achieve the best settlement possible and build the union. You will have the opportunity to write proposals, participate in face to face negotiations with an employer, work within a bargaining team, learn effective bargaining strategies though a week long simulation of bargaining and organizing. The work in the simulation will be supported by workshops on the subjects of bargaining, preparation and information requests, proposals for the common good, organizing and escalation, how to prepare a bargaining team, and settling the contract (or not).
When employers violate contract agreements, grievance arbitration is an important tool for Unions that want to fight for members. But there is a misconception that successful grievance arbitration depends on a great lawyer. This can make arbitration appear cost prohibitive and stop Unions from using this powerful tool. In fact, anyone can learn to successfully arbitrate contract disputes, and this training will show you how! Arbitration for Union Activists is for any steward, executive board member, or union staffer who wants to learn to prepare and present successful arbitrations for their Union. Students will learn:
The landscape for Unions is shaped by the country's particular economic and industrial relations system. In this class, students will explore what these systems mean for workers who are–or would like to–organize. Each student will choose a particular country to learn about its industrial relations system and how it affects organized labor.
What are unions? What do they do, and why?
These might feel like easy questions, but that’s only because the labor movement has a tremendous capacity to avoid self-examination. The truth is that much of what labor leaders and activists take as conventional wisdom is far from it. Behind our slogans of solidarity and bargaining for the common good are myriad views about what the labor movement is for and how it ought to operate.
The goal of this course is for participants to develop their capacities for critical thinking by asking important questions about the American labor movement – what we are, where we want to go, and how we are going to get there. We need to be able to examine our own ideas as well as those of both defenders of the status quo and would-be reformers.
There is no contradiction between robust advocacy in defense of the working class and an analytical attitude towards the assumptions that underlie the justice work we do. We become better organizers when we learn to think critically about what we do and how we do it.