Union Organization and Function

Course Number: LABR 630             


In this course, the field of Organization Theory provides a conceptual framework for the study of organizational development, re-development, and structural change in labor organizations. Utilizing theories that explain the nature of conflict and change, they examine union leadership practice and organizational effectiveness, focusing on the changing roles of union leaders and the pace at which labor organizations must adapt to meet evolving economic realities. Students examine the effects of this crisis on unions and union leadership globally.  Core union functions, such as organizing, representation and administration will be examined. The importance of strategic planning and union culture will also be discussed.

Learning outcomes:

  • Students will understand theories of organizational development and will be able to apply them to organizational practices, including evaluating relationships, diagnosing organizational problems, and initiating change
  • Students will become familiar with models and styles of leadership and will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of union leaders and the strategies they employ in a variety of contexts, including organizing, representing diverse workers, and fostering member participation
  • Students will acquire a theoretical understanding of management approaches to supervision, training and retention, and labor-management relations.
  • Students will consider ethics and values as well as political issues  in analyzing complex issues facing unions and workers.
  • Students will be able to diagnose problems and develop effective leadership strategies for dealing with organizational crisis and conflict.



Session 1: Institutional Organization of Unions
Values, norms, goals, outputs
Unions and Organizational Theory (groups and hierarchy)
Bureaucracy vs transformation

Session 2: Theories of Leadership
Organizational development
Management and administration

Session 3: Leadership Models
Laissez faire

Session 4: Values-Based Leadership
Union Culture
Context analysis

Session  5: Developing and Sustaining Leadership
Planning and mapping
Cultural shifts
Retention and Succession

Session 6: Models of Effective Organization
Stewardship of resources
Dealing with Conflict
Dealing with Misconduct
Internal capacity-building
Organizational structure and involvement

Session 7: Collective Representation 
Rights of union members
Management Goals and Bargaining Strategies
The Negotiation Process
           Negotiations Chart 
           Introduction to Strategic Corporate Research

Session 8: Collective Action
Wildcat Strikes
Work  Slowdowns
Strikes and the Threat of Strike
Other collective actions

Session 9: Dispute Resolution
Fact Finding

Session 10: Contract Administration
The Grievance Procedure
The Arbitration Process
Alternatives to the Grievance Procedure

Session 11: Organizing New Members and Growing the Union 
Legal Constraints
Models of Organizing
Strategies and Tactics

Session 12: Shaping the Socio-Political Environment
Unions and Politics
Social Legislation (protecting and strengthening the safety net)
Labor Legislation
Building Alliances: unions, community groups, advocacy organizations

Session 13: Strategic Research
The Importance of Knowing Your Employer
Best Practices in Corporate Research
Launching and Sustaining a Corporate Campaign
        Beating Global Capital: A Framework and Method for Union Strategic Corporate Research and Campaigns (Tom Juravich)
        Conducting Strategic Corporate Research: chart, research steps (Tom Juravich)
        Strategic Planning and Organizing SWOT Analysis 

Session 14: Labor Education
The Importance of Building and Informed and Engaged Rank-and-File
Models of Union Based Education
Models of University Based Worker Education and Labor Studies

Session 15:  Potential for Change
Social movement unionism
International collaborations and alliances
Global campaigns