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UE Education: Essential for Rank-and-File Unionism

In order to have robust rank-and-file participation in our union at all levels, member education must remain a top priority for UE. 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 restructuring of the union into regions and subregions enables us to bring a variety of educational workshops to a broader layer of local union leaders, activists, and members. 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. In areas with significant Spanish-speaking membership, the union provides materials in Spanish to enable more members to participate.

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. The work of the UE Young Activist Program, the Southern Workers Assembly and our union’s participation in Labor Notes Conferences and Troublemakers Schools have contributed to our efforts to bring forward new activists and leaders who will carry the union’s work into the future.

The union continues to benefit from its education initiatives of recent decades. 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. 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 as well as UE and working-class history helping members understand our legacy.

Our website (ueunion.org), and Facebook page contain information and news helpful to union members and unorganized workers. A number of locals, the Young Activist Program, Warehouse Workers for Justice, and other organizing projects also have an interactive web presence through Facebook. The UE website has links to download workshops and dozens of issues of the UE Steward.

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

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION:

  1. Commits the national union to provide educational materials and workshops to assist members to run effective local unions and successfully wage 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;
    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. Utilizing video teleconferencing to conduct educational training;
    12. A revised UE Leadership Guide;
  2. Commits all locals to:
    1. Leadership development of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ members, young workers, and members with disabilities;
    2. Active encouragement and support of members regardless of age, race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity;
    3. Education about UE history and principles;
    4. Regular publication of local newsletters;
    5. Classes to introduce new members to the union, explaining policies, structure, and collective bargaining agreements;
    6. Seek the right to conduct union orientation for new hires during work time;
    7. Establishing websites, using social media, and union bulletin boards;
    8. Negotiating employer-paid lost time for members to attend training and educational events;
    9. Develop training materials on unity councils to resolve member conflicts.