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School of Labor & Employment Relations University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Certificate in Labor Studies

The Certificate in Labor Studies 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. Because the kind of knowledge necessary for effective union membership and leadership is broad rather than narrow, we encourage people to take at least six unique classes. Students who complete the six-class requirement will receive a Certificate in Labor Studies from the Labor Education Program. Classes may be taken at either location, a certificate will be awarded for anyone completing the total requirement as long as courses were not repeated (i.e. a student taking “Internal Organizing” in both Chicago and Champaign, will only be credited once for completing this course toward the certificate requirement).

Below is a description of our 2017-2018 Certificate Program, including the dates and times in which each class meets. All classes meet one day for eight hours on a Saturday. The fee per class is $150. However, the fee for students who enroll in two or more classes is $100. Unions which enroll a minimum of five students can also receive a discounted bloc rate.

Chicago Course-offering Details:

Chicago classes take place in Chicago at The Rice Building, Suite #110, 815 W. VanBuren, Chicago, Illinois 60607.
Click here for current course descriptions and the registration form (pdf).
For more information, email Maria Dokes or call 312-996-2627

Downstate Course-offering Details:

Unless otherwise noted, downstate classes take place in Champaign at the Labor and Employment Relations Building, Basement room 35, 504 E. Armory Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61820.
Click here for current course descriptions (pdf). Registration can also be completed online by clicking “Registration” in the menu to the left.
For more information, email Michael Foellmer or call 217-333-0980

Certificate Program Course Offerings, Chicago

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Steward Training – Saturday, October 7, 2017                    9AM – 5PM

The class will discuss how to investigate, screen, write, and negotiate a grievance; the seven principles of just cause; the law including the legal right of union stewards, unfair labor practices, and the duty of fair representation; and past practice grievances. The class will discuss several common grievance areas, and we will practice resolving grievances.

Lessons from the Past:  A Look at U.S. Labor History – Saturday, November 4, 2017       9AM – 5PM

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 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).

Internal Organizing – Saturday, December 2, 2017            9AM – 5PM

The class will discuss ways to educate, organize, and mobilize the members. We will review examples of how some locals have succeeded in transforming their unions. Topics include collective action around grievances; confronting and overcoming divisions such as over race, gender, or immigration status; responding to apathetic or anti-union members; organizing member-to-member action networks and contract campaigns; and building strategic campaigns and labor- community alliances.

Collective Bargaining – Saturday, January 6, 2018            9AM – 5PM

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, 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.

Labor and Employment Law – Saturday, February 17, 2018   9AM – 5PM

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 of the laws and their enforcement. The course covers both the National Labor Relations Act on union organizing, strikes, lockouts, and the rights of unionists to take on-the- job actions to defend their contract; and employment laws that impact all workers such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and non-discrimination laws.

Joining the Debate Over the Economy – Saturday, March 10, 2018      9AM – 5PM

As the Great Recession continues, the country is embroiled in debates over economic issues. This class gives you the information you need to effectively enter these debates. Some topics to be discussed include: What is the response to the argument that raising the minimum wage will hurt workers by increasing inflation? What is the answer to the argument that free trade raises all workers’ standard of living and lowers prices?  What arguments do unionists use to rebut the argument that so-called “right to work” laws are needed to improve the business climate? Are corporate taxes too high, and would lowering them create more jobs? Do prevailing wage laws hurt or help workers? Should private sector workers welcome legislation to cut or eliminate public sector workers’ pensions? What are union proposals to improve the economy for all working people?

Certificate Program Course Offerings, Champaign-Urbana (and surrounding area)

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Steward Training – Saturday, October 28, 2017                  9AM – 5PM

The class will discuss how to investigate, screen, write, and negotiate a grievance; the seven principles of just cause; the law including the legal right of union stewards, unfair labor practices, and the duty of fair representation; and past practice grievances. The class will discuss several common grievance areas, and we will practice resolving grievances.

Collective Bargaining – Saturday, October 21, 2017                   9AM – 5PM

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, 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.

Lessons from the Past: A Look at U.S. Labor History – Saturday, November 4, 2017                    9AM – 5PM

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).

Media Matters: Establishing effective messaging for social media campaigns and the press – Saturday, January 13, 2018                   9AM – 5PM

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.

Common Sense Economics – Saturday, Feburary 10, 2018                    9AM – 5PM

The country is embroiled in debates over economic issues, and this class gives you the information you need to effectively enter these debates. Some topics to be discussed include: What is the response to the argument that raising the minimum wage will hurt workers by increasing inflation? What arguments do unionists use to rebut the argument that so -called “right to work” laws are needed to improve the business climate? Do prevailing wage laws hurt or help workers? Should private sector workers welcome legislation to cut or eliminate public sector workers’ pensions? How does increasing globalization impact these economic questions?

Internal Organizing – Saturday, March 17, 2018                    9AM – 5PM

The class will discuss ways to educate, organize, and mobilize the members. We will review examples of how some locals have succeeded in transforming their unions. Topics include collective action around grievances; confronting and overcoming divisions such as over race, gender, or immigration status; responding to apathetic or anti-union members; organizing member-to-member action networks and contract campaigns; and building strategic campaigns and labor- community alliances.