SKIP navigation
William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies

Classes for Unions

Collective Bargaining | How to Effectively Talk Union | Labor Studies | Leadership | Solidarity | Steward Training | Special Topics

The Institute offers open enrollment courses for union members and contract courses for specific local unions, state associations or central labor councils. Most courses last one to two days and are taught on weekends, but the Institute will contract to meet any scheduling needs. The cost of contract courses is normally less expensive than sending members to one of the open enrollment programs. The basic training cost is $200 per day plus a per participant charge for instructional material. There may be additional costs for meeting space, meals or instructors who are not Institute staff.

For more information or to register call (402) 595-2344 or email John Kretzschmar.

Collective Bargaining

Preparation for Collective Bargaining:
This course will increase the effectiveness of union committees in collective bargaining. Topics include the legal framework for collective bargaining; determining what bargaining proposals the union will bring to negotiations; calculating realistic proposal settlement ranges; how to write contract language and basic negotiation strategy and tactics. (16 classroom hours)
"This will definitely help our bargaining team be better prepared than we ever have been." John Bourne, IBEW 22

Management Rights and the Continuing Duty to Bargain Under the National Labor Relations Act:
For union advocates at all levels, this seminar will highlight how to use the offices of the NLRB to win management rights disputes. Arbitrations are presently being lost because arbitrators are still using the "residual rights" theory in their decision making. (6 classroom hours)

How to Effectively Talk "Union"

How to Effectively Talk "Union"
Labor unions were our nation's first successful anti-poverty program. Wage earners use them to introduce limited democracy into the employment relationship. Employees collectively bargain with employers to increase fairness and justice in the workplace. Nevertheless, a widespread misunderstanding of unions and the American labor movement persists. This class explores how to more effectively explain to members, the general public and the media why unions are needed, what they do and how they do it. (8 classroom hours)

"An eye opener on how we should "sell" our message." Chris Peterson, IBEW 265

Labor Studies

Common Sense Economics:
Learn how the economy works and how political decisions influence what happens at the bargaining table and in the community. Topics include: economic education for workers; standards of economic justice and how politics touch everything we do. (8 classroom hours)

Labor History:
This history course probes the working and living conditions which gave rise to unions and the opposition to unions which workers faced. (8 classroom hours)
"A great program. This course should be a prerequisite to being a union leader." Mary Hakanson, URW 815


Leadership Training:
Increase the effectiveness of union leadership by learning basic management skills. Topics include: analyzing leadership styles; goal setting; problem solving; time management and group decision-making techniques. (16 classroom hours)
"I learned techniques and processes that will be useful in furthering the goals of our union." Mike Meyer, UFCW 22

Strategic Planning for Executive Boards:
An intensive workshop for local union, central labor council, or state association leaders to help them realistically assess where they are now and plan what they can expect to accomplish during their term of office. (16 classroom hours)


Increasing Political Effectiveness:
For elected and appointed union officials and interested members this course will teach strategies for educating and involving members in political activities. Topics include: assessing past union political efforts; the psychology of motivation; labor economics; analyzing union demographics; finding issues that motivate members and the importance of lobbying. (8 classroom hours)
"Very helpful with information concerning the how and what to do to advance the interests of my union."  Patrick Hendricks, UTU 393

Making Committees Work:
This course will teach the skills elected and appointed committee chairs and members need in order to make their meetings more productive. Topics include: psychology of motivation; communicating union values; how to chair; how to lead a discussion; participative decision-making techniques; strategic planning and problem solving for unions. (16 classroom hours)
"I feel this class was very good, and any officer of a union could use this information." Roger Miller, IBT 554

Parliamentary Procedure:
This course will familiarize all union members with a set of rules that can promote cooperation within the union and increase its effectiveness. Participants will learn how rules should be applied and interpreted to permit the majority to accomplish its ultimate purpose within a reasonable length of time, while allowing the minority the opportunity to express its views. (6 classroom hours)

Solidarity Building and Internal Organizing:
Learn the causes for member apathy and how union leadership can increase membership involvement. Topics include: psychology of motivation; union and management contributions to member apathy; basic strategic planning techniques and building an action plan for improving solidarity. (16 classroom hours)

Steward Training

Grievance Handling:
For newly-elected stewards or experienced officers wanting a refresher, this course teaches the skills needed to represent workers with grievances. Topics include: what is and is not a grievance; proper grievance investigation techniques; arbitrators' standard for determining just cause for discipline; and oral and written grievance presentation skills. (8 classroom hours)
"Excellent-a great learning tool. It should help our local in the future." Steve Curren, IBEW 1483

Preparing a Grievance to Go to Arbitration:
Many grievances are won or lost in the early stages of the grievance procedure. The steward must understand how the arbitration process works and what is needed to succeed if a grievance goes all the way to a hearing. Proper preparation will result in a higher winning percentage and make presenting the grievance in the arbitration hearing much easier. This course is designed for those who have completed Grievance Handling and/or Steward Training. Topics include: evidence and proof in arbitration; the rules of evidence; gathering and organizing evidence; case analysis and settlement consideration; anatomy of the arbitration hearing; the seven tests of just cause and how to judge whether the arbitrator's decision runs counter to the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. (16 classroom hours)

Steward Training:
Stewards are the backbone of any local union. They play mony important roles in the workplace. They are grievers, educators, leaders, and finding issues that motivate members and the importance of lobbying. (8 classroom hours)
"This class is great for all stewards and a must for beginning stewards." Frank Godinez, UFCW 271

Special Topics

Safety and Health:
Nebraska employers, who pay into the state workers compensation fund, are by law mandated to establish joint safety committees to meet periodically to examine safety issues in the workplace.   Unions must understand their role in these committees.  Safety is a mandatory item of bargaining.  When union representatives meet with management to discuss safety issues, they are actually engaging in a form of continuous bargaining.  This class will examine how the union can (1) use safety and health issues to reduce member apathy; (2) identify safety programs that blame the worker rather than identify and reduce the workplace hazards and (3) properly prepare to negotiate with management over how to redesign the workplace to fit the health and safety needs of the employees.

The Family and Medical Leave Act:
This course will give union members a working knowledge of the FMLA and how it applies in union settings. Topics include: who does the Act cover; your rights under the Act; legitimate reasons for requesting leave; notice and certification requirements; return to work rights and using collective bargaining to expand your rights under the Act. (8 classroom hours)

The Use and Abuse of Worker Participation Programs:
For union leaders and members who are contemplating involvement in labor-management worker participation programs, this course explores the potential dangers and possible benefits. Topics include: the history of labor-management cooperation programs; current labor law and joint labor-management programs; assessing management's motivation for instituting the program; assessing the potential risks and benefits to the union stemming from participation; and setting ground rules for union involvement. (16 classroom hours)
"The class should be mandatory for any unions that are considering going into an employee involvement program." Steve Abbott, CWA Local 7401