FEATURED UNION ARTICLE:
Retrieved from: https://career.berkeley.edu/article/041001a-sd.stm
Jobs in Labor Unions
January 20, 2006
"For many students, it's counter-intuitive
to leave your stint as a cook in the burger joint on your resume and
take off the fact that you made dean's list four semesters in a row.
But this is exactly what you should do when applying for a job as a
"Academic awards are certainly nice, but it's more important to
show that you've got experience doing the kinds of things the people
you'll organize do for a living."
Assistant Regional Coordinator
Western Region AFL-CIO Organizing Institute
Career Center (CC): What is the most important thing Cal students
can do to prepare for a career in labor?
Julia Stewart (JS): Get involved in something you care about,
take on a fight, and do something to make a difference. There are hundreds
of opportunities to get involved in some way. If you can't manage to
do at least one of them, it may be hard to show that you're motivated
enough to work in the labor movement.
CC: Do internships and other experiences outside of the classroom
help students' chances for working in your field? What types of experiences
are most valuable?
JS: Experiences gained outside the classroom are incredibly
valuable; especially experience doing any kind of activist or organizing
work. The UC
Berkeley Labor Center
and the AFL-CIO
offer summer internships to students who are interested in working in
the labor movement, which are great ways to get a better picture
of unions and what they do.
Working in the labor movement requires you to be able to relate to
working people, so it's also important to have some serious work experience,
or at least to know what it's like to have a bad job.
CC: What advice would you give to recent grads looking for a job
in your field?
- Be prepared to work hard. Any kind of activist work requires dedication
and commitment, and this usually translates to working long hours.
Expect to be critiqued and be willing to learn and improve your skills.
Nothing about this work is easy. The stakes are very high. But that's
exactly what makes the work so rewarding.
- The most important qualities in a union organizer are good listening
and communication skills, an ability to challenge others to stand
up for themselves, and to build a rapport with people from all walks
- In the interview, stress experiences where you overcame significant
obstacles, situations where you worked closely with diverse groups
of people, and opportunities to mobilize individuals or groups to
take some kind of action.
Job Titles within Unions
- Organizers recruit and mobilize workers and identify, train
and develop workplace leaders. They conduct meetings, trainings and
actions to educate people about their rights and to explain the organizing
process. They also develop and manage campaigns for union recognition
and identify community activists and politicians who will support
- Field Representatives represent chapters and members before
employers and public agencies. They defend members at disciplinary
hearings and research and investigate member and chapter problems.
- Legislative (Political Action) Advocates develop and pursue
a strategic legislative agenda, preparing written fact sheets, letters
of support and opposition, and other communications on legislative
and administrative issues. They also present written and oral testimony
before legislative and administrative bodies and research and analyze
legislative proposals introduced by unions and legislators.
- Researchers support the mission of unions by conducting in-depth
economic analyses and industry research to help develop and implement
- Communications Organizers implement communication strategy
through public events, union presentations and political campaign
messages. They draft newsletter articles, internal communications
and talking points, produce media releases, and they hold press conferences
and maintain contact with journalists.
- Business Agents (or Union Executives) provide representation
to members through the arbitration level and manage contract negotiations.
They also lead internal organizing efforts, train and develop union
leadership and communications systems, as well as appear before governmental
boards, commissions and councils and endorse candidates for political
Other Opportunities in the Field
There are a host of nonprofits working on behalf of workers on both
the national and international front. An example is the Asian
Immigrant Women Advocates
who work with women workers employed in the garment, hotel, restaurant,
electronics assembly and other low-wage industries in the Bay Area.
- Think tanks such as the Economic
Policy Institute provide research and education on labor issues.
- Labor relations and employment law is a viable practice area within
the legal profession and includes all areas of the employer/employee
- Various government agencies also provide jobs in the field, including
the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) which was established to prevent and remedy
unfair labor practices by either employers or unions. Field Examiners
review claims of grievances and offer technical assistance to those
who wish to file charges or petitions.