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Tools and Training to Help Leaders “Be the Union”

The UNI catalogue covers every major area union leaders need in today’s environment, such as member and community engagement, organizing, communications, politics and legislation, to name a few. There are courses in union governance and administration, including operations and finances. Others cover more specific topics, such as equitable access to care or food security, health and safety and reducing student debt.
Available courses cross every AFT constituency and type of workplace where our members are employed. Additionally, the catalogue includes a number of offerings that provide career-focused professional learning and continuing education.
Some of the courses are “just add water” and can be presented by established leaders or state federation staff. Many programs also can be customized to meet the specific needs of affiliated local union members.
Click here to submit an online request for a course or program from the catalogue.
“I think we need to do everything we can to not only ID leaders, but also train them,” said AFT Connecticut Executive Vice President John Brady, RN. “As someone who stepped into unionism without much training, I know stewards must be adequately prepared to effectively represent their members. But we also need to recruit and train internal organizers, communicators, treasurers, presidents and other elected officers,” added Brady, who previously served as our Backus Federation of Nurses union president.
Click here to watch Brady and others share their thoughts on the fifth anniversary of our union at Backus Hospital.
Our state federation has for several years coordinated a modified version of the “Union Leadership Skills” course for new stewards and officers — or leaders simply in need of a “refresher.” Nearly two dozen last month packed our affiliated Windham United unions hall in downtown Willimantic for a 90-minute session (above) led by Field Representative Greg Kotecki.
The first part of the course focused on the roles, responsibilities and rights of local union stewards — members who are elected or designated to serve as workplace representatives. From understanding fundamental legal protections to obligations in meetings with members’ supervisors to navigating the grievance process, the course helps prepare those responsible for defending their colleagues on the job.
Click here for an interview with an acclaimed labor lawyer on the role of stewards in workplace democracy.
The second part of the course focused on training for new leaders to help them assess their membership strength and effectively address the challenges they will face. The overall focus is on methods for engaging their colleagues in collective efforts to “be the union.”
The training also provided concrete steps new leaders can take in order to increase member involvement and boost their union’s workplace, community and political power. The foundations of building a strong local organization were covered, from establishing stewards and communications “networks” to mapping and assessing worksites to launching winning contract campaigns.
Members with specific questions on leadership development courses coordinated by our state federation can contact AFT Connecticut Professional Development Coordinator Jennifer Benevento at

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