Labor Education and   
Research Center

We provide education, training, events, and applied research to   
working people in Washington State.


We offer specific skills-development classes like steward training, collective bargaining, and meeting facilitation, and broader informational programs like labor history, and economics for working families; click on a topic below for details. Our teaching is based on a popular education model that draws heavily on the experiences of workshop participants.

Fees are charged for some classes however we are free to all Seattle Colleges programs. When we design a training for a particular organization we charge an hourly and/or daily fee for preparation and instruction, plus expenses. All terms are agreed upon in advance. For information on our training and education programs, contact James Oliveros,

Description coming soon

description coming soon

Organizing is the heart of unionism. An organizing training focuses on the skills needed to empower workers in internal or external organizing campaigns.

These include excellent communication skills, strategic planning, knowledge of labor law and organizing rights, how to identify and develop leaders, how to work with committees, etc.

Internal organizing is for workers who already have a union and can focus on contract negotiations and enforcement, politics, coalition building, etc.

External organizing is the creation of new unions and is one of the most difficult kinds of works in unions today. Make no mistake, employers have become highly sophisticated in ‘union avoidance’ strategies, both legal and illegal, and being an organizer means helping workers understand the process and win, often against massive resistance.

Organizing doesn’t stop when the election is won or union recognition is achieved. Increasingly successful union elections don’t ever result in a first contract. So building an ‘organizing union,’ one that sees organizing as the ongoing meaning and process of having a union, is critical to success.

The Labor Center can design training for your union or organization to help you understand the fundamentals of how to organize, and give you the tools to strategically analyze when, where, and who to organize.

We offer two different versions of steward training. The first is direct training where Labor Center staff tailor a training for stewards from a specific union, or work with multiple unions in a single class. The second kind of steward training is a train-the-trainer model. In this version we work with union leaders to help them develop a steward training that they will implement themselves.

In either case steward training focuses on leadership and communication skills - how being an effective steward can build the power of the union on the job as well as provide good representational services to union members.

As a training tailored for a particular union, we can look at the specific contract and structural issues for that local.

In a multi-union setting we ask participants from different unions to describe the relevant processes from their unions. We have consistently heard from workshop participants that this kind of cross- union exchange is extremely valuable.

The added piece in the train-the-trainer model is a focus on how adults learn and how to structure steward training activities. In either case, the philosophical approach to this class is ‘stewards as leaders.’

We look at the legal basis for the rights of stewards and how the equality between management and the union steward makes the steward the work-place voice and power of the union.

We can also look at some of the pitfalls of stewarding and how to avoid them. This is not a training that focuses on the technicalities of grievance handling, or arbitration, although we could work with a particular union to develop that kind of training if needed.

Steward training can range from a ½ day to 3 days or more.

Contract negotiations are the time when the interest of union members is most focused. This is an opportunity to develop your union, build relationships as part of a broader labor movement, as well as get the best possible contract terms. It is a complex process that requires a broad set of skills to succeed. In this training we can focus on developing a contract campaign that will engage members in the negotiations process, how to do strategic research and planning for negotiations, how to develop and cost contract proposals, effective negotiations teams and table tactics, and the importance of communication skills.

We most frequently train on the basis of positional or traditional bargaining, but we can also look at Interest-Based Bargaining as requested.

In order to be effective, any Collective Bargaining training would have to be a minimum of a full day, and we would recommend 3 or 4 days. This can be scheduled in a variety of ways to fit the schedules of training participants.

What are the fundamentals of good leadership and how do we develop those skills? Whether it is public speaking, running effective meetings, strategic planning, understanding the issues effecting the workers in your area, fulfilling the responsibilities of an elected position, identifying leadership in others and mentoring, being professional union or organizational staff, or being a creative and energized activist, leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. We can design leadership training in all of these areas.

A minimum of a ½ day is needed to engage in the discussion of what constitutes a good leader and how to develop those skills.

This training is most effective with participation by people from a broad range of unions and organizations so folks can learn from each other. Active participation is also crucial - from getting up in front of the group to give a speech, to role plays, we make these training fun as well as challenging!

We face a tremendous challenge in unions today – an aging membership and aging leadership.

The ‘old school’ of unionism must embrace upcoming generations of activists and leaders who have different orientations towards the issues, and different skill sets.

How can unions effectively activate their younger members and why should they?

What are the particular challenges of bringing younger workers in to your leadership?

What do you need to teach and what do you need to learn?

What are younger workers interested in and how do they see unions or other kinds of institutional organizations?

Sometimes inter-generational communication can be just as confusing as traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language.

The Labor Center can design and implement training for both experienced and less experienced workers to help bridge some of these gaps and strategically plan for leadership succession in social justice organizations.

Understanding the struggles of workers in the U.S. for decent wages and benefits, and for respect and a voice on the job can go a long way towards inspiring current union members and non-union workers to stand up and be counted.

Labor history is woefully under-taught in our public education system; a labor history presentation is likely to expose many union members to stories that are entirely new to them.

Are you running a training that you'd like a Labor History component? 

Do you want a presentation for your leadership or membership? Would offering such a presentation encourage participation in meetings?

These presentations run for a minimum of 60 minutes, include a slideshow and music, and are brought to you. They can also be tailored to focus on a particular community, region, time period or industry.

Contact the Center to schedule a Labor History presentation today!

The basics of workers’ right in the U.S. are drastically under-taught. From the right to organize to health & safety protections, U.S. workers need to know what they can expect from employers.

This training can focus on those rights, working through any number of specific topics including sexual harassment, family medical leave, discrimination, classification, wages, and workplace injury, to mention only a few.

The Center has produced two editions of the Washington State Workers’ Rights Manual, which is available for down load on this site. This manual can give you a sense of the broad spectrum of topics that can be covered in this training.

The more topics covered, the longer the training, but we would recommend that this training be no shorter than a ½ day.

Unless you of Native American descent, we all come from immigrants or slaves. This is the fundamental nature of our American character. And yet immigration has often been a source of tension among American workers and within our unions.

Why is this?

What political and economic factors have created these conflicts and how do we organize in the face of them?

What is the role of the immigrant worker in building a movement for social justice in the U.S?

Organizing immigrant workers presents particular challenges which can also be a focus in this training.

The Labor Center can design a workshop for your union or organization to help you tackle these issues. This can bring up a lot of stress and anger, and having Labor Center staff there to facilitate what can often be difficult conversations is a useful tool.

Who likes going to meetings? It is the minority who will answer ‘yes.’ Meetings can be tedious indeed, and often frustrating, and yet they are an essential part of having a successful and effective organization.

The Labor Center can offer direct facilitation services – i.e. we can come in and run meetings for you, if that’s what you need. We can also design training to help you learn how to have better meetings.

Whether you use Robert’s Rules of Order or some other decision-making process, we can walk you through the steps needed to make your meetings work.

Organizing campaigns, contract negotiations, public policy campaigns, and political campaigns of all types require well-researched information to develop a winning strategy. 

Increasingly unions develop corporate campaigns as part of their organizing strategies.

These campaigns are based on information gathered about a particular employer, industry, public officer holder, set of policies or laws, worker demographics, or financial analysis to name only a few relevant categories.

Strategic researchers can play an essential role as part of a leadership team in your union or organization.

A strategic research training can focus on what kinds of information provide leverage, use of internet tools, how to map out the political and financial relationships of a company, and many other things.

While often very detail-oriented and sometimes tedious, strategic research can yield very exciting results when developing campaigns.

We recommend that a strategic research training be no less than a full day, and could run for several days.