Responding to the recent split in the US labor movement, this paper aims to argue that learning must become an integral part of a progressive union devoted to organizing.
This paper traces the evolution of vocational education in US industrial unions and critiques it in light of the challenges facing labor today.
The paper finds that vocational education in US industrial unions is a negotiated benefit aimed at meeting the instrumental needs of individual union members. The evolution of this model was inevitable given the US labor relations context within which it emerged. However, significant changes in US political economy call for a new model of vocational education in unions. Rather than learning as a service, Learning to Organize challenges unions to put learning in service of the broader, collective aim of renewed labor power.
The paper shows that union leaders need to reframe their views of vocational learning and its role in unions. Union vocational and labor educators can help leaders to both broaden the vocational learning agenda and link worker engagement in vocational learning to strategic planning, policy development, and everyday operations inside unions.
The paper offers ideas on how to mobilize unions' extensive vocational education resources in support of broader worker engagement and a new strategic agenda inside of US unions.
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