The strength of any organization depends on how solid of a foundation it is built on. Education is that foundation. In the 1980’s unions encountered a major setback when globalization hit. This caused a change in the economy accounting for major losses of jobs affecting blue-collar workers. Unions were not prepared for the hardship it created for its members. Now in the 21st century, globalization is back. This time it has spared a greater magnitude of devastation. Not only for the blue-collar workers, but it has encompassed white-collar workers as well.
Unions should have learned from the setbacks in the 1980’s by taking it as a warning to prepare for the future. During this time unions should have taken an active stance and turned this devastation into opportunity. Did they? No. Instead of pro-actively educating themselves by innovatively working on strategies and solutions, they continued with the status quo “trial and error learning” of the past. Now that globalization is back, unions are still unprepared and are now drastically working defensively against the threats that could destroy decades of collectively bargaining. In order to compete with these challenges, union’s educational foundation must be more innovatively advanced to be solid. For this to happen, unions must make education the top priority now and into the 22nd century.
It has been no secret that our public schools have kept the labor union movement under hidden wraps for years. Anyone that attends elementary through high school, or goes on to college will never learn anything about the history, philosophy, principles or structure of the union. After graduation some of these individuals will become business managers, lawyers; and
some will possibly work in a trade. However, they still will be un-knowledgeable about the functions of grievance handling, collective bargaining, being a union steward or even the duties of a local union leader.
Because of this misfortune, most newly organized members, and a lot of experienced members have been left uneducated about the basics of unionism. Up to now many of the experienced members education has been in the form of technical training, or they have had to learn by “trial and error.”
Now, that the 21st century has brought in these magnitude of challenges; “the [main] goal of union or labor education [should not only be] to build a more capable and knowledgeable union membership and leadership” (Schachhuber, 1979, p. 151), but to also build greater solidarity within the labor movement. Also, unions “can no longer be limited to offering technical training” (Fletcher, 2000, p.10), and cannot “continue to rely on weekend conferences or a few days or weeks of resident study to equip newly emerging labor leadership to deal with the complexity of modern collective bargaining and the social, economic, and future of our nation, to say nothing of foreign policy and international relations”...