Grooming the Next Generation of Labor Leaders
Academy teaches union members leadership skills
Jennifer Cropper, a member of UNITE-HERE Local 54 since the early 1990s, never expected to make it to the higher ranks of her union.
Yet quickly she worked her way up the ladder, starting as shop steward and now earning the title of union organizer and field representative.
Cropper credits her success to Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations’ Union Leadership Academy (ULA)
“I am from a very long line of union members, and ULA gave me the courage and knowledge to become a leader,” said Cropper, who graduated with 21 other continuing studies students from program last month. “No way could I be where I am now without having had these classes.”
For more than 50 years Rutgers’ Union Leadership Academy has been providing union members with the tools to advance their careers in the workplace. The program offers courses on topics such as employment law, dispute resolution, communication skills, and employee health care benefits.
“The ULA provides workers with a chance to learn more about how to become a leader within their place of work and how to improve the quality of their work life,” said Tracy Chang, director of the program.
ULA classes, which run for six weeks, are offered at locations throughout the Garden State – New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton, West Berlin, and Atlantic City – making it easy for adult learners to make it to their classes.
Debbie McNeill, coordinator for the program, said ULA courses help students learn more about their rights under the law, information they can bring back to their unions.
“Year after year they come back to the classes because they have gained so much knowledge and insight,” McNeill said. “[The graduates] come back to further improve their union skills and improve their relations with their co-workers.”
Tiran Billups, a member of ATU Local 819 and a recent ULA graduate, said the program is vitally important because it enriches the union representation of members in Garden State. The program will help take his local out from “The Stone Age,” Billups said, modernizing it through the use of computers and other systems to ensure that union leadership can better represent its members.