Introduction to the principles and practices of union organizing. Topics include theories of organizing, internal and external organizing, and a case analysis of current organizing campaigns.
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Labor 697UA

Union Administration:  Governance and Democracy

ULA Program – UMass Amherst Labor Center

January 2020

 

Eve Weinbaum

724 Thompson

weinbaum@umass.edu

 

This course explores fundamental questions about how unions function. Drawing on literature from a range of disciplines related to labor studies, we will evaluate case studies, debates in the field, and competing theories about union governance and democracy.  We will discuss the ways that different unions operate – the ideal vs. the reality.  The course readings include classic formulations of union effectiveness from different academic disciplines.  Using the tools provided in the readings, we will consider the most appropriate criteria for analyzing and evaluating union performance.  How do we know if a union is being “successful” or not?  What are the academics missing – what other important factors should be considered?  Would other approaches provide us with more useful information about union governance and democracy? 

We will supplement the course readings with guest speakers who will share their expertise and their experience with union leadership and administration.  Together we will analyze key questions including:

- How are governance processes organized in different types of unions, including industrial unions, public sector, service sector, and building trades? 

- How have scholars evaluated union effectiveness, and what is the connection between governance and effectiveness?

- What are the roles and responsibilities of union leaders, members, and staff? What is the most appropriate relationship between members and staff?

- What is the role and authority of national or international unions vs. locals?

- How do we define union democracy?  How do we know if a union is democratic?

- How do union governance structures contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

- How can members and leaders effect change within a union?  How can they make it more likely that progressive changes will last?

 

We will begin by analyzing in detail the governance processes within different types of unions.  Each student will learn in detail about their own union’s structures and procedures, and then we will compare our unions with others based on the assigned readings and invited guest speakers.  As we analyze governance models, we will evaluate how these models contribute to (or detract from) a union’s ability to function effectively, mobilize and engage members, build power, create alliances and coalitions, represent members’ voices effectively, set agendas and achieve goals, change when necessary, and respond to challenges and opportunities in the external economy and political environment.  Students will be encouraged to analyze their union, industry, or sector in order to think about how governance structures and processes can be used to effect the types of change that would help our organizations to further their missions, fulfill members’ goals, and build power for working people.

This course is a research and writing seminar for graduate students in the Labor Studies MS degree program. Students complete an original research project in a series of stages, including articulating methodologies, literature review, outlining, writing, feedback, and intensive peer review. The final product is a polished work ready for publication and conference presentations.
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