Labor Leadership Academy Certificate Program

Labor Leadership Academy (formerly the Certificate in Labor Studies)

The Labor Leadership Academy lays the foundation for educated union participation and future leadership.

This program is an introduction to the labor movement and builds toward a more intensive development of labor education. Classes are for current union leaders, new members, activists, union staff, people who want to meet people from other unions, worker centers, and working people who want to learn about the labor movement.

Students may chose to attend in Chicago or Champaign. Registration NOW OPEN! For unions seeking the group discount, contact our office manager, Ursulla Idleman, at 217-265-5658

Course Descriptions

History & Power of Labor
Champaign Oct. 5, 2024 or Chicago Oct. 19, 2024

What does the history of the U.S. look like when viewed from the point of view of those who built the country?  The class reviews working-class and labor history since the Civil War, but focuses (with films) on some key labor struggles such as the 1894 Pullman Strike; organizing in the mine and textile industries; the growth of trade unionism; the rise of the CIO and the autoworker sit-down strikes; the impact of McCarthyism on the labor movement; and the expansion of public sector unionization (1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike and the 1970 Postal Workers Strike).

Labor & Employment Law
Champaign Nov. 2, 2024 or Chicago Nov. 16, 2024

The class covers the basics of labor and employment laws that every union activist should know. The class reviews the laws, the agencies that administer the laws, and the effectiveness and weaknesses of the laws and their enforcement. The course covers the National Labor Relations Act and the challenges workers face in union organizing, strikes, lockouts, and contract campaigns; employment laws that impact all workers such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and anti-discrimination laws; and the Landrum Griffin Act on union members’ rights.

Collective Bargaining
Champaign Dec. 7, 2024 or Chicago Dec. 14, 2024

This class introduces the student to the process and content of collective bargaining. It addresses among other items the legal obligations to bargain, mandatory and permissible subjects of bargaining, types of bargaining relationships, and styles of bargaining and takes the student thorough multiple stages of labor negotiations.  The class also examines the critical information necessary to bargain successfully. Students learn to analyze a contract, cost out a contract, develop a bargaining proposal, practice good table behavior, negotiating skills, how to use the caucus, keep records, and write appropriate contract language.

Steward Training   
Champaign Jan. 11, 2025 or Chicago Jan. 18, 2025

The class will discuss how to investigate, screen, write, and negotiate a grievance; how to interview the grievant and witnesses; the multiple roles of a steward; the seven principles of just cause; and the legal rights of union stewards.  The class will discuss several common grievance areas, and we will practice resolving grievances.

The Economy & You: Understanding Worker Power
Champaign Feb. 1, 2025 or Chicago Feb. 10, 2025

Understanding the economy and examining your day-to-day and long-term social conditions and worker rights.  How much power do you have as a worker in the US?  Analyzing how the system works will position workers for better strategy and tactics in labor organizing. Topics will include the growth of “right to work” laws, gig work, and automation. We will also examine why the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living, and current attacks against prevailing wage.  We will consider race, gender, immigrant status, and the impact of globalization on changing working conditions, and how resource distribution at the local, state, and national levels matters for organizing for a better future.

Internal Organizing
Champaign Mar. 1, 2025 or Chicago Mar. 8, 2025

The class will discuss ways to educate, organize, and mobilize the members.  Topics include collective action around grievances; confronting and overcoming divisions such as over race, gender, or immigration status; one-on-one conversations with apathetic or anti-union members; organizing contract campaigns; and organizing in support of bargaining for the common good.

Media Matters:
Establishing effective messaging for
social media campaigns and the press
Champaign April 5, 2025 or Chicago April 12, 2025

This class will provide interactive instruction on building an effective union media strategy.  Topics include building your message; writing a press release; writing letters to the editor; how to talk to the press; and creative and impactful social media strategies. The emphasis of the course will be developing inclusive media messaging that amplifies union member’s stories and voices.