Building Strong Local Unions

Member democracy, self-determination, and social justice are enduring AFT values.

This is a union established to give voice to our members and advance their occupational, professional and workplace interests and well as values rooted in economic fairness, political democracy, civil rights and individual freedom at home and in the community. Organizing is how we build power to bring fairness and voice to our jobs, and it all starts with member-to-member conversations.

Effective organizing means building relationships, one at a time, over time, through structured one-on-one conversations. Organizing conversations are the most effective way to gather information about unit members and the workplace, identify worker concerns and issues, impart factual information about the union, “inoculate” against anti-union campaigns, and move unit members to action. It requires knowing who is at a worksite and making sure you know when you can meet and talk with them; listening to their story and connecting what they are talking about to larger issues in the workplace, the community, or the legislative or political process; and then linking the individual member to others who have the same concerns to get them working together.


We believe that any member can become an effective union leader.

The fundamental skills are never perfected, but should be practiced and developed over a lifetime.

After the passage of “right to work,” we embarked on a collaborative process to visualize what strong unions look like. If unions are strong in each of these essential capacities, which can be thought of as “spokes” of the Union Power Wheel, they are in position to survive and thrive. Just like with a bicycle, a weak or missing spoke leads to a bumpy ride. Multiple missing spokes make the wheel extremely vulnerable to any external challenges. We align our goals, training, and support programs within this framework as much as possible.

  • One-on-one conversations are the basis of relationship-building. In a union context, we most commonly think of one-on-ones when asking people to become members, but they are also essential within leadership teams, supporting worksite leaders, and reaching out to community partners.
  • Developing leaders & teams is central to any kind of organizing. We must constantly expand the pool of members sharing in the work and decision-making and also devote energy to making our various leadership teams as healthy and effective as possible.
  • Planning is a way of approaching challenges strategically and is relevant from complex situations like contract campaigns to smaller challenges like a year-end membership party. The component skills of goal-setting, choosing targets, power analysis, and tactics provide a common framework that teams can use to make important decisions together.

Beyond these fundamental skills, AFT Michigan also offers training to help leaders develop capacity in key areas:

Team-Building, Decision-Making & Governance (Internal Structures)
  • Delegation, Feedback & Accountability
  • Group Decision-Making
  • New Officer Foundations
  • Effective Meetings
  • Managing With Labor’s Values 
Financial, Data, & Communication Tools (Internal Structures)
  • Financial Management 
  • Managing Member Data
  • Communication Tools
Organizing & Engaging Members
  • 1-on-1 Organizing Conversations
  • Local Organizing Structures: Mapping, Charting, & Assigning Turf 
  • Running Organizing Drives
Negotiating & Problem-Solving
  • Collective Bargaining 
  • Contract Enforcement 
  • Contract Campaign Planning
  • Accessing Unemployment in Michigan
  • Workers’ Rights and the Law
Coalitions & Political Action
  • Local & State Electoral Politics 
  • Lobbying From School Boards to the Governor’s Office
  • Media Relations 
Fighting for Racial & Social Justice
  • Justice Leaders
  • Labor & Social Movement History

If you are interested in hearing more about our leadership development program, contact your Field Representative or Meenakshi Mukherjee.