Resources for Organizing

By Kevin Van Meter

For workers organizing unions and workers’ organizations at their workplaces and union members seeking to create more democratic and rank-and-file led organizations, there is a robust set of educational opportunities available, with more developing all the time. They range from programs offered by local unions, institutes, labor centers, and independent organizations, to magazines, podcasts, and books such as Real World Labor.

This chapter will support you and those you’re organizing with to obtain skills and strategies to win your fight.

Local Unions, International Unions, and State Federations

Of the 14.4 million workers organized into unions in the United States, 12.5 million are in unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Council of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Not surprisingly, many union members have access to trainings at the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute. These training sessions focus on internal organizing—that is, organizing at workplaces with existing unions to bargain and enforce contracts, file grievances, and build a union culture.

Every year, the United Association of Labor Educators (UALE), together with university-based labor centers, holds four institutes for union women. These include the Western Summer Institute for Union Women, the Midwest School for Women Workers, the Northeast School for Women in Unions and Worker Organizations, and the Southern Women Worker Summer School. Additional programs at the AFL-CIO’s Women’s Global Leadership Program offer similar educational opportunities.

Labor Centers

A hundred years ago, dozens of labor colleges instructed American workers in the trades, organizing skills, and on how to become full, educated members of society—the most famous of these being the Brookwood Labor College. In the late 1960s, the AFL-CIO founded the National Labor College, but it closed in 2014. While robust labor education used to be the purview (and a priority) of the labor movement, more recently, university- and community-college-based labor centers across the United States have picked up the mantel. University-based extension centers provide both credit courses and degrees in labor studies and noncredit courses, workshops, trainings, and public programing in everything from labor history and collective bargaining to strategic planning and contemporary issues facing the labor movement. The following list of current labor centers is organized in alphabetical order by state:

The following are an international and a U.S. association of labor educators:

Independent Organizations

In addition to legacy labor unions and federations, independent labor organizations provide organizer training for workers at the forefront of developing innovative tactics, strategies, and visions. With 89.9% of workers working without a union contract and legacy labor ignoring huge sectors of the workforce (or outright refusing to spend resources on organizing), independent organizations and unions have emerged out of workers’ own self-activity. Since 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which developed out of separate unions and a working-class culture, still trains and organizes workers.

Moreover, legacy labor unions are often undemocratic, protectionist, and politically timid organizations. As a result, reform caucuses, spurred on by recent wins in the Teamsters and United Auto Workers (UAW), are seeking to take back legacy labor from the union bureaucrats and return them to rank-and-file control.

For the past 40 years, Labor Notes has arguably trained more union members and workers in the United States than any other outfit through its monthly print publication, online news service, bi-annual national and regional conferences, and regularly scheduled workshops. Labor Notes is hardly alone. The Association for Union Democracy is a “non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the principles and practices of democratic trade unionism,” and Labor’s Bookstore serves as a resource for good reading materials and offers Zoom workshops. The Bargaining for the Common Good Network (BCGN) coordinates unions organizing over issues beyond wages, hours, and working conditions. During the early days of the Covid-19 crisis, the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC) was formed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) to meet the urgent need to organize those facing the brunt of the pandemic. Finally, the international program Organizing 4 Power has trained over 27,000 workers worldwide.

A few independent labor organizations are listed alphabetically below:


In the past few years, an array of books on labor history, labor studies, union organizing, and related topics have appeared that address organizing directly. Labor Notes has become the de facto publication of the U.S. labor movement, and publications such as Dollars & Sense and Jacobin have robust labor beats. In recent years, dozens of podcasts on the labor movement have also appeared. Among our favorites are Working People “about the working class today,” which should be required listening for organizers and working people in the United States.


  • Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up by Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle (Labor Education and Research Project, 1999)
  • Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law by Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross (PM Press, 2011)
  • No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Secrets of a Successful Organizer by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter (Labor Notes, 2016)
  • Strike! 50th Anniversary Edition by Jeremy Brecher (PM Press, 2020)
  • Troublemaking: Why You Should Organise Your Workplace by Lydia Hughes and Jamie Woodcock (Verso, 2023)
  • The Union Steward’s Complete Guide: A Survival Manual, 3rd Edition edited by David Prosten (David Prosten Books, 2020)
  • Workers’ Rights Press Books by Robert M. Schwartz and distributed by Labor Notes /PM Press: The Legal Rights of Union Stewards; Just Cause: A Union Guide to Winning Disciplinary Cases; No Contract, No Peace!: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts; How to Win Past Practice Grievances; The FMLA Handbook

Labor Periodicals

  • The Chief
  • Dollars & Sense
  • Global Labour Column
  • Journal of Labor and Society
  • Labor Notes
  • Labor Studies Journal
  • Labor Tribune (St. Louis/Southern Illinois)
  • More Prefect Union
  • New Labor Forum
  • Notes from Below (UK)
  • Northwest Labor Press (Oregon/Washington)
  • On Labor
  • Organizing Work
  • Payday Report
  • Portside
  • Strikewave
  • Workday Minnesota <
  • Work-Bites

Periodicals with Labor Sections

  • Boston Review
  • In These Times
  • Jacobin
  • Mother Jones
  • New Politics
  • Real News Network
  • Truthout


  • Behind the News with Doug Henwood
  • The Dig
  • Economics for the People (featuring the D&S Debrief)
  • Heartland Labor Forum
  • Jacobin Radio
  • Labor History Today/Labor Beat
  • Labor Radio Podcast Network (with 100 member shows)
  • Labor Video
  • Radio Labour
  • Working People

Please visit this page for updated versions of this resource list.

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