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 structure of 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, our union’s participation in Labor Notes Conferences and Troublemakers Schools, and the North American Solidarity Project Conference held jointly with Unifor at Port Elgin, have contributed to our efforts to bring forward new activists and leaders who will carry the union’s work into the future. UE also advanced member education with new workshops on topics including healthcare for all, preparing for the open shop in the public sector, combatting sexual harassment, and understanding the new tax bill.

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, 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 as well as UE and working-class history helping members understand our legacy.

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 download workshops and to access the UE News archives maintained by the University of Pittsburgh. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly publicize UE educational materials, and many UE locals also have an interactive web presence through Facebook.

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 76th UE CONVENTION:

  1. Commits the national union to provide 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. Utilizing video teleconferencing to conduct educational training, and video record workshops to make them available online;
    12. A revised UE Leadership Guide;
  2. Encourages all locals to:
    1. Commit to leadership development of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ members, young workers, members with disabilities, and workers of other nationalities;
    2. Educate members about UE history and principles;
    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.