UE Education: Essential for Rank-and-File Unionism

In order to have robust rank-and-file participation in UE at all levels, member education must remain a top priority. We must provide the skills and knowledge to empower our members to take on the boss, to engage in community struggles that advance worker rights, and to run the union. We must prioritize time for this education at every opportunity. 

Our union's educational work provides members with the tools to resist employer attacks on wages, benefits, and working conditions. UE's geographic structure of regions and sub-regions enables us to bring a variety of educational workshops to a broader layer of local union leaders, activists, and members. Educational events help members and local union officers learn about policies on union financial integrity and practices, grievance handling, workplace representation, preparation for bargaining, and other leadership skills. Combined with workshops in regional council meetings, national conventions, and training sessions organized by local unions, this education helps members fight back in an era of increased anti-worker attacks. 

Spurred on by necessity during the pandemic, the UE Education Department converted traditional workshops to online learning formats, which contributed to our efforts to bring forward new activists and leaders who will carry the union’s work into the future. In the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023, UE offered a new multi-part online education series, Building Union Power, which aimed to strengthen local unions by encouraging members to mobilize around workplace issues to win. UE also advanced member education with a new workshop on inflation and how to fix it.

The union continues to benefit from its education initiatives of recent decades, including our most recent publication, Them and Us Unionism. The UE Steward Handbook and the UE Leadership Guide – both published in the late 1990s — remain the most thorough and useful training materials for rank-and-file leaders. The UE Steward, a newsletter of useful information and tips for shop leaders, continues to be one of the most sought after publications, and since December 2017 has been distributed via email, website and social media in addition to print. The UE NEWS provides not only reporting on our recent struggles and other activities, but also in-depth analysis of current issues facing union members and UE and working-class history, helping members understand our legacy. In areas with significant Spanish-speaking membership, the union provides these and other materials in Spanish to enable more members to participate. Given new organizing and turnover in other shops, UE Aims and Structure received a refresh to provide a clear resource to orient new members to the organization. The Spanish translation of this booklet was also updated, and it was translated into Vietnamese at the request of multiple locals — UE’s first document translated into that language. These materials are also available on the union’s website.

Our website (ueunion.org) contains information and news helpful to union members and unorganized workers, including dozens of issues of the UE Steward, and links to access the UE News archives maintained by the University of Pittsburgh. Our social media accounts regularly publicize UE educational materials, and many UE locals also have an interactive web presence through Facebook. UE launched an all-new online portal at ueunion.net to provide members with access to electronic versions of materials such as the UE Leadership Guide, handouts from workshops, UE logos and art, and internal forms.

A strong and effective union depends on an educated, informed leadership, an effective steward system, and an involved membership. 


  1. Commits the national union to provide both in-person and virtual educational materials and workshops to assist members in running effective local unions and successfully waging local, national and international struggles, including: 
    1. Democratic operation of a local, including steward training and grievance handling, local union finances and integrity, and preparing for escalating shop floor campaigns, negotiations, and in-shop struggles, with training tailored to the needs of each local; 
    2. Sub-regional educational and training conferences;
    3. A day of workshops at the national convention and workshops for use at regional, sub-regional, and local membership meetings;
    4. The UE Steward and other materials for local officers, stewards, and members; 
    5. Political education that counteracts corporate media influence and promotes a working-class consciousness;
    6. Protecting the union in a right-to-work state and implementing strategies to maintain member unity and combat right-to-work laws; 
    7. Maintenance and promotion of the UE website and social media; 
    8. Continued publication of UE NEWS; 
    9. Continued translation of materials into Spanish and/or other languages; 
    10. Providing language interpretation of meetings where appropriate; 
    11. Continued use of video teleconferencing to conduct educational training; 
    12. A revised UE Leadership Guide; 
    13. Coordinating leadership development programs to build the skills of UE leaders;
  2. Encourages all locals to: 
    1. Commit to leadership development of African Americans, women, LGBTQ+ members, young workers, members with disabilities, and workers of other nationalities; 
    2. Educate members about UE history and principles using the Them and Us Unionism and Aims and Structures booklets; 
    3. Regularly publish local newsletters; 
    4. Conduct classes to introduce new members to the union, explaining policies, structure, and collective bargaining agreements; 
    5. Seek the right to conduct union orientation for new hires during work time; 
    6. Establish websites, use social media, and regularly update union bulletin boards;
    7. Negotiate employer-paid lost time for members to attend training and educational events; 
    8. Hold regular steward trainings and membership involvement classes;
    9. Organize team building activities to educate members and the public in an engaging manner;
    10. Educate membership about the history of their local;
    11. Establish partnerships between locals to foster skill exchange, UE local history, and general mentorship.