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Union Leadership

The Institute for Labor Studies has always considered the education of union stewards and labor leaders to be its primary mission. We have divided the courses for union leaders into four broad categories: computer training, contract training, labor relations and employment law, and workplace health and safety.

You Benefit by our Educational Partnerships!

We offer individual courses on-site, at the time and place you choose, with experienced faculty and staff who understand the specific needs of union leaders throughout the labor movement. Go online to explore our online course offerings at Ed2Go.

Leadership: Computer Training

Costing out Contracts Using Excel

This workshop provides participants with the working knowledge and skills needed to  use Excel to successfully cost out items in a  contract.

Power Point for Union Leaders

In this entry-level course, participants learn how to create a presentation using design templates. Participants will learn to add, delete and format slides, text and clip art; check spelling and style, and add sound to presentations. Participants should have knowledge of Microsoft Word.

Leadership: Contract Training

Contract 101

This workshop focuses on giving participants a basic understanding of contracts and contract language. The workshop is a must for new representatives across all unions.

Contract 102

This course is the second in a two-part series. Participants are requested to bring a copy of their contract. Details of contracts will be reviewed  and explained. It is strongly recommended that participants complete Contract 101 before signing up for Contract 102.

Leadership: Labor Relations & Employment Law / ADA and FMLA


In this course, participants receive the latest information on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how the federal and state laws interact to affect workplace situations.

Discrimination in the Workplace

This workshop explores the legal definitions of harassment, including conduct committed by co-workers and supervisors. The information shared with participants is valuable both to union leaders and to general membership.

Leadership: Labor Law

Labor Law: What You Need to Know

Expand your knowledge of the legal rules and practices that govern labor relations and the workplace. Topics include state and federal labor law, worker rights, and employment law.

Applying for the Retirement System

Plan ahead to make your transition from public service to your receipt of earned benefits from the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) a smooth one. Learn how to register online, and to navigate the  ERSRI web site; to purchase service time; and to calculate your pension benefit; and to address any other issues with the staff who serve the members of the retirement system.

Appealing Retirement System Decisions

This seminar presents the process, on a step-by-step basis, for individuals who are applying or who have applied for a disability pension, or who have been denied a benefit under the system, such as a request related to the purchase of service time. Both ordinary and job-related disabilities will be addressed. Pension benefit calculations, based on the type of disability, will be explained. The procedures and representations entitlements for members, which are a part of the appeals process, will also be presented.

Leadership: Effective Communication

Are You an Effective Communicator?

Sometimes what is being said is not what is being heard. Communication is a message effectively sent and received without the distraction of personality, bias, noise, and pre-judgment. Learn to communicate effectively as both an individual and a team through the skills and information offered in this workshop.

Introduction to Local Leadership Training

Leaders of union locals require an array of skills and knowledge to effectively manage situations that arise in a local and to build the confidence of the membership. This workshop is extremely valuable to both new and veteran union leaders.

Leadership: Grievance Training

Effective Grievance Handling and the Rights of Stewards

Learn how to understand members’ rights in union contracts, identify a grievance, fill out a grievance form, present the grievance to your manager, and organize your co-workers to support the grievance. Participants will also discuss some of a steward’s basic legal rights and responsibilities. This workshop is designed for union stewards who have never had grievance training, and for rank and file members who are not union stewards. Bring a copy of your union contract. This course would be appropriate for both new and experienced stewards and school representatives.

Past Practice: A Reality Check

Everyone has an understanding on what a past practice is and why a past practice grievance should be filed. But does your understanding of what a past practice is match reality? Attend this session and learn about the standards used by arbitrators in determining whether or not a legitimate past practice exists. The details of Rhode Island’s public sector past practice law will be covered.

Using Just Cause in Grievance Handling

An understanding of just cause and due process is crucial for stewards to effectively represent workers in disciplinary cases. This workshop will familiarize stewards with those concepts and help in the preparation of strong arguments for grievance hearings or investigations. Prior knowledge of the grievance process is recommended.

Leadership: Lobbying

Effective Lobbying Techniques

Learn how the RI State Legislature works and how you can participate in the democratic process. Learn from labor’s top lobbyists.

Introduction to Lobbying

The making of legislation is a complicated and lengthy process. Learn how state laws are made and how you can participate in the process. Topics will include getting legislation introduced, tracking bills, understanding legislative jargon and the do’s and don’ts of lobbying.

Legislative Hearings

Committee hearings are a primary method in which legislators learn about legislation and form opinions about bills. Participate in a mock hearing and learn how to craft a message, offer testimony, answer questions appropriately, and handle anticipated testimony from those on the other side of the issue.

How to Build a PAC in Your Local

This workshop will discuss a variety of opportunities for union members to get involved, including collecting money for political campaigns. The session will highlight the information necessary to establish a PAC and comply with state reporting requirements. Best methods of encouraging members to participate in the PAC will also by shared with participants.

Organizing a Legislative Campaign

Getting your union or organization involved in legislation requires planning and preparation. Learn how to reach out to your members to get them involved. Discuss the timing of letter writing, rallies, and campaigns, the use of e-mail, and using the press to further your cause.

Leadership: Negotiation Training

Negotiation Training

A two-session program that will prepare bargaining committee members to develop, cost and present proposals. Participants will be exposed to the steps necessary for successful negotiations. The second session will be devoted to a three-hour mock negotiation, where participants will put into practice the skills acquired in the first session.

Leadership: Secretary-Treasurer Training

Creating an Organizational Budget

Unions and other membership organizations collect and spend a lot of money each year. Does your organization formally adopt an annual budget? Come to this workshop and learn how to create and monitor an annual budget for your organization.

Union Secretary-Treasurer Seminar

A secretary-treasurer is responsible for making certain that financial records, meeting minutes, expense accounts, and government reports are all handled in accordance with the proper procedures. This workshop will review the record keeping and  reporting requirements with which the secretary-treasurer must comply.

Leadership: Steward Training

Basic Steward Training

Learn the legal rights and responsibilities of union stewards in order to become a more effective advocate for your co-workers. This workshop, designed for both new and experienced stewards, covers topics such as the Duty of Fair Representation, advocacy and Weingarten rights, grievance handling, duty to bargain over unilateral changes in working conditions, and the personal elements of good stewardship.

Advanced Steward Training

This workshop goes into greater depth with respect to Collective Bargaining Agreement contract enforcement. From writing to processing a grievance, beginning at Step One through the arbitration process, the training includes grievance investigation process, preparation of witnesses, amendment procedures for the grievance and remedy, and preparations and conducting the arbitration process, as well as addressing grievances involving competing member interests. This training benefits stewards and union officials who are in any way involved in the grievance process.

Leadership: Union Counseling

AFL-CIO Union Counseling Course

Accumulate the information and skills needed to assist co-workers in resolving problems faced at home and at work. This 7-session course shows participants how to access the social service programs that provide assistance with food, utilities, housing, substance abuse, family problems, unemployment benefits, TDI, and Social Security. Sponsored by the United Way of Rhode Island Community Services Department, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, and the Institute for Labor Studies.

Leadership: Workplace Health & Safety

Health and Safety Issues in the Workplace

Working conditions that pose hazards to the health and safety of members are usually a violation of local, state, and/or federal laws. Learn how to monitor and maintain a safe working environment for your co-workers and how to assist them in the event of workplace injury. The Workers’ Compensation system can provide relief to workers who suffer job-related injuries. This workshop helps the steward to help others by providing the knowledge necessary to keep workers safe and to assist them when they are hurt on the job.

Using Social Media Effectively

Learn the basics on the effective use on such things as Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to remain current and keep your members.