Training for Union Leaders & Activists

Building Trades Academy

The Building Trades Academy

The courses offered through the Building Trades Academy include various aspects of organizing, contract negotiations, labor law, etc. All topics are customized for the unionized construction industry.

Learn more about the Building Trades Academy

Topics below represent some of the many courses we have previously facilitated for organizations. Please contact us if you are interested in working with us and learning more!

  • Grievance Handling, Steward Training

    Target Audience: Stewards, activists
    Comments: Basic and advanced options
    Length: 8 to 16 hours

    Sample Topics Covered

    • Role of the steward in the local union
      • Advocate for the worker
      • Promote the union
    • What is a grievance?
      • A range of definitions is discussed; We focus on the definition of a grievance as a violation of
        • The contract
        • An arbitration decision
        • Federal, state or local law
        • Past practice
        • Management's own policy
        • Or unequal treatment of employees
    • Steps in the grievance procedure
      • Review contract language that outlines the grievance procedure
      • Who is involved in what step
      • How to investigate a grievance
      • Practice writing a grievance
    • Duty of Fair Representation (DFR)
      • Union's obligation to represent all members of the bargaining unit without discrimination
      • Tips for avoiding DFR charges
    • For longer programs only: Current issues in the U.S. labor movement
      • Decline in unionization rate
      • Strength of public sector unions
      • Rising income inequality
      • Need for organizing
      • Right to work legislation
      • Employee Free Choice Act


  • Collective Bargaining

    Target Audience: Bargaining committee members, executive board members, new staff reps
    Comments: Basic and advanced options
    Length: 16 to 40 hours

    Sample Topics Covered

    • Bargaining Process
      • Creation of a bargaining committee
      • Role of bargaining team members
      • Ground rules
      • Preparing for bargaining
        • Survey of membership
        • Review of grievances and arbitrations
      • Early, middle, and late bargaining sessions
      • Mock bargaining sessions using real contract language
    • Legal aspects of bargaining
      • Definition of good faith bargaining
      • Mandatory, permissive, and illegal subjects of bargaining
    • For longer programs only: Preparing the membership for bargaining
      • Internal organizing
      • Planning collective actions
    • Researching your employer
  • Arbitration

    Target Audience: Staff reps
    Comments: Basic and advanced options
    Length: 8 to 24 hours

    Sample Topics Covered

    • Arbitration process
      • Brief review of grievance procedure
      • Selection of cases for arbitration
      • Seven tests of just cause
      • Selection of an arbitration
      • Preparation for the hearing
      • Sample cases
    • For longer programs:
      • Mock arbitration hearing conducted by an arbitrator
  • Labor Law

    Target Audience: Local officers, executive board members, stewards
    Comments: Public and private sector options
    Length: Up to 40 hours

    Sample Topics Covered

    • Background
      • Definition of terms, e.g., bargaining unit, union shop, open shop, right to work
      • Who is covered by what law?
        • Private v. public sector
      • Unfair labor practices
    • Organizing
      • Card check recognition
      • NLRB election procedures
      • Legal and illegal employer tactics (e.g., captive audience meetings, threats, etc.)
      • Legally permitted means for unions to contact workers
    • Bargaining
      • Bargaining in good faith
      • Mandatory, permissive, and illegal subjects of bargaining
      • Options at contract expiration
      • Impasse
      • Right to strike
      • Rules for picketing
    • Contract Administration
      • Grievances and arbitration
      • Mid-contract changes
      • Duty of Fair Representation
      • Weingarten Rights
      • Beck Rights
  • Employment Law

    Target Audience: Local officers, executive board members, stewards, members with specific issues
    Length: Up to 20 hours
    Sample Topics: FMLA, basic OSHA rights, ADA, workers compensation, discrimination and harassment

  • Basic Economics

    Target Audience: Activists, members, stewards, local officers
    Comments: Customized based on industry
    Length: Up to 40 hours
    Sample Topics: Globalization, trade, privatization / outsourcing, taxes/role of government, income inequality, industry analysis

  • Public Speaking

    Target Audience: Members, activists, stewards, local officers
    Comments: Basic
    Length: Up to 8 hours
    Sample Topics: How to organize a talk and be comfortable speaking to an audience

  • Dealing with Difficult People

    Target Audience: Anyone
    Comments: Basic
    Length: Basic
    Sample Topics: Presents a variety of approaches

  • Conflict Resolution, Problems Solving

    Target Audience: Anyone
    Comments: Basic to advance
    Length: 3 to 24 hours
    Sample Topics: Styles and approaches, tools for one-on-one negotiating

  • Union Leadership

    Target Audience: Local officers, executive board, stewards, activists
    Comments: Customized based on local interests
    Length: Up to 40 hours
    Sample Topics: What do leaders do, running effective meetings, diversity and inclusion, developing a vision

  • Women's Leadership

    Target Audience: Women activists, officers and staff
    Length: 12 to 24 hours
    Sample Topics: How women develop as leaders and other leadership topics listed above

  • Member Mobilization

    Target Audience: Local officers, executive board, stewards
    Sample Topics: Ways to increase member activism

  • Health and Safety

    Target Audience: Local officers, executive board, stewards, activist
    Comments: Technical topics based on local request
    Length: 3 to 20 hours
    Sample Topics: Basic OSHA rights, health and safety committees, union response to behavior based safety

  • Labor History

    Target Audience: Any
    Comments: Technical topics based on local request
    Length: Up to 40 hours
    Sample Topics: Focus is on US labor history, customized for the specific union and industry

  • Teaching Techniques

    Target Audience: Trainers and those who plan to become trainers
    Length: 8 to 40 hours
    Sample Topics: Skills for both presentation and facilitation; participatory curriculum design