About the Labor Extension Program

What is the Labor Extension Program?

The  Labor Extension Program is a state wide effort, based in the UMass campuses at Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell, to provide non-credit training and education to workers, their unions, and other workers' organizations. Our focus is on strengthening these organizations and increasing activism. Labor Extension programs are designed to help union and community activists, officers, and staff build the skills necessary to effectively advocate for the needs and concerns of the workforce and to organize the unorganized.

The Labor Extension Program helps unions and other worker organizations to fully and effectively represent an increasingly diverse membership, to train a new generation of union leaders to face the challenges of the future, and to prepare all workers, organized and unorganized to exercise their full rights in the work place and the community.

How does the Labor Extension Program Work?

We offer programming in a variety of formats for individual unions, central labor councils, community-based organizations and individual union members and community activists. Our offerings include short courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, and special programs on a broad range of subject areas. We contract with unions and other workers' organizations to custom design programs for their members, officers and staff. We also offer open enrollment programs that anyone may attend for a small fee.

Finally, we provide assistance and support to labor organizations in the development and delivery of their own educational programs.

What Kinds of Programs do we offer?

Click on the headings below to see more details about the kind of workshops, classes and technical assistance we offer. If you don't see your subject heading below, contact us; this list is not totally inclusive.

    Stewards training is one of the services that we are most often asked for. We have provided stewards training to many unions over the years. We have also offered multi-union and open-enrollment stewards training.

    While we tailor the details of our stewards training to the needs of the particuar union with whom we are working, all our basic stewards workshops include several core features:

    • The Steward's job: the roles, legal rights and responsibilities of stewards
    • Grievance Handling
    • Alternative strategies when a grievance is not appropriate or not enough

    A basic stewards training may take from 1 day to 2 or 3, depending on how much time the union members have available.

    We can also offer additional training on specialized or more advanced topics. Some examples are:

    "Mobilizing your Members"
    "Building a Communications Structure"
    "Weingarten Rights, Garrity Rights and Workload Issues" (put together at the request of a public employee local)

    This training is usually done for a particular union's bargaining committee, and is tailored to the needs of that particular group. Some of the elements that a Collective Bargaining workshop or series of workshops could include are:

    • Drawing up the unions proposals
    • How to act at the table
    • Contract costing

    Building a contract campaign can be part of this workshop, or a separate one.

    Labor Extension has taught Strategic Planning Workshops, both for particular local unions and in an open-enrollment setting.

    We also have experience facilitating strategic planning processes for local union EBoards, Central Labor Councils and other groups.

    The nature of work has changed greatly over the last decades, due both to new technologies and to changes in the organization of work and the workplace. Employers are turning more often to part-time or contingent workers and to contracting out in order to lower labor costs. The changes in jobs and workplaces are being made without input  from the people most affected: the workers. Labor Extension has developed a two-session interactive workshop that can help workers understand the forces behind the changes taking place and strategize ways to assert some control over them. The curriculum can be downloaded from this website here.

    Or, contact the Labor Extension program to facilitate a version of the workshop expressly tailored to the situation facing your union or workplace.

    The Labor Extension Program has developed a comprehensive curriculum on workers rights in Massachusetts, called "The Boss Can't Do That, Can He?"  See Curricula > Workers Rights on this website. You are welcome to  download and use any or all parts of this curriculum if you wish.

    We are also available to lead a training session or sessions specifically designed for your local or organization, focusing on whatever aspects of the laws you are most interested in.