School Blog

by | Mar 27, 2017 |

This term, we’re spreading the knowledge! Throughout our Spring 2017 term, we’ll be doing a series of features on each of our wonderful courses. Each course will be featured for a full week– during that week, you’ll get a chance to read articles related to the course content, see pictures and videos from the class, meet students and hear what they’re learning, and find out ways to link up to the action/issues at hand! All of this will be posted here, and will be updated daily on our Facebook page.

Have questions, or want to know more about how to connect to the Guild, our classes, our instructors, and the things we’re working on? Contact us! Call us at (781) 340-7887 or email

Week 1– Standing Up for Workers’ Rights During the Trump Presidency: Grassroots Organizing and Strategy, taught by Rand Wilson, Communications Director, SEIU 888


Major Course Questions: How will the new political environment affect labor organizing, union representation, and contract settlements?  What can workers, unions, and other labor organizations do to fight back and win? To read the full course description, click here.

Instructor bio: Rand Wilson is a the Communications Director at SEIU 888. He has worked with IBEW, the Iron Workers, AFL-CIO, CWA, MTA, Teamsters, Jobs With Justice, and more. In 2016, he was a volunteer organizer for Labor for Bernie, and a Sanders delegate from Massachusetts to the Democratic National Convention. He is currently involved with Our Revolution, fighting to reclaim democracy for working people.

Trump won — but that is just a symptom of the growing political power arrayed against workers and unions.  In order to change the political equation, we are going to have to be a lot stronger in our communities and our workplaces.  We gain strength by building workers’ unity on the job.  We achieve unity through organizing!  

Check out these two articles, which students will discuss in tonight’s session:

“Why did Trump win? And what’s next for labor in the US?” by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson:

From the excellent Labor Notes handbook Secrets of a Successful Organizer, a how-to guide for “An Organizing Conversation”:

Get a glimpse of the action, and hear some of the ideas that were discussed. Remember, there’s much more to come as the week continues!

“In unity there is strength. But, in fact, getting people together is not that easy.” – Rand Wilson, SEIU 888

In response to the idea that politics is a spectator sport: “You’ve got to participate in your own survival. Do you want to survive, or do you want to thrive?”

“You’ve got to know what you’re good at […] It’s the team building that’s going to make the people want to stay strong.” – Winifred Peterson, Secretary, MTASO

“You don’t want to ask someone to run before they can walk.” – Rand Wilson

Thanks to Payton Corbett, Shop Steward and Trustee, Teamsters Local 122, for taking the photos!

Hear from a student enrolled in the course about the topics being covered, what they’re learning, and more! This week’s reflection is written by Wini Peterson, Secretary, MTA – METRO Regional Office.

I am attending the Labor Guild and attending the class “Standing up for Workers Rights: Grassroots Organizing” with Rand Wilson as the instructor. I find this class to be an eye opener as it is so important to get people organized, but also to have them knowledgeable about what the issues but why it needs to be dealt with. You can have the best issue, but if no one knows about the issue or why it is important nothing gets done. I am especially enjoying the stories that other locals have and how they overcame opposition to the rights and benefits of their members. We are coming up to a time when big business has an ally in the White House who doesn’t appreciate Unions, private or public and would like to see them gone. Now more than ever we need good strong unions and even stronger union members.

Get to know one of the students in the week’s featured class! This week we’re excited to learn from Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain, Recording Secretary of Boston School Bus Drivers- USW Local 8751, and a longtime Guild school student.

“When you create division within an organization, you create space for the opposition to get in and destroy it. Dialogue is the biggest weapon.” – Claude St. Germain

Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain is the Recording Secretary of Boston School Bus Drivers- USW Local 8751 and a longtime Guild School student. He was part of the massive organizing campaign and victory of the Bus Drivers against Veolia/Transdev’s firing of four workers and attempts at union busting. He has been attending Guild classes since 2003, just one year after he began his job as a bus driver.

Claude became a member of USW Local 8571 when he began his job in October of 2002. Because all bus drivers are automatically added to the union, Claude was eager to get involved. During his first months on the job, he knew he wanted to learn more. A friend showed him the Labor Guild’s brochure, and he has been coming to classes ever since. “I was so anxious at that time to get everything in place to start talking about the union,” he said.

Claude has taken a wide range of classes—from Negotiations, to the Role of the Steward, and more—and has enjoyed all of them, for the range of environments they provide and skills they teach. According to Claude, “Knowledge is important. It helps you get confidence so you can have a good position in the union […] When you are in class, you get involved.”

Indeed, Claude has been highly engaged in his union, holding a number of positions and seeing it through both difficult times and victories. Since he began, Claude has held the position of steward, trustee, and now recording secretary. One of the many successes Claude has helped win for his union is the Retirement with Dignity component of the contract, which ensures that bus drivers have a strong retirement plan.

Claude was deeply involved in the historic fight against Veolia/Transdev, which began when they fired four of the drivers in late 2013. Claude says that the worst thing he’s seen on his job has been these four workers getting fired. From the day that occurred, union members including Claude escalated organizing and the struggle to win their jobs back. Bus drivers picketed every single day after work for 26 months, chipped in to support those who had been fired, and launched huge internal campaigns to get the four drivers elected to positions within the union. It was when they won these elections that they were able to return to work and secure their rights and contracts. The Bus Drivers have written a book about their historic fight, and have gone on a four-state speaking tour. Claude participated in that tour and continues to travel, sharing the story and insights from their fight and the fights of their sisters and brothers in unions throughout Boston.

For Claude, being part of a union like the Bus Drivers means gaining new knowledge and taking pride in its history of solidarity, struggle, and victory. As he says, “I always want to test everything to see what’s going on. If you have the opportunity, you seize it.” The Guild is lucky to learn from a longtime student and organizer like Claude!

Inspired by something from this week’s posts? Want to know how to continue learning and acting on the issues? Check out the resources below!

Students in the Grassroots Organizing class will be writing their own actions plans for their unions and communities. Consider writing your own! Here are some materials that might be helpful:

Week 2– Next Steps for Stewards: Organizing Around the Grievance Process, taught by Tom Breslin, retired Assistant Director of Labor Education, Massachusetts Nurses Association

Course Description: Participants will learn strategies on how to supplement and enhance the grievance process by mobilizing around an issue to build membership strategy. Offered based on popular demand, this course will be an in-depth, hands-on coverage of grievance handling and everything it entails.

Instructor bio:
Tom Breslin recently retired as the Assistant Director of Labor Education at the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Want to get a sense of what it means to dive into the grievance process? Check out the article attached!

Students discussed this article in their Monday night session: Developing Workplace Actions

Get a glimpse of the action, and hear some of the ideas that were discussed. Remember, there’s much more to come as the week continues!

“What we’re really talking about is this: Are we giving the stewards enough tools to engage, motivate, and mobilize the members?” – Tom Breslin, MNA

“A good leader not only talks about the things we do on a day-to-day basis, but also asks, ‘where do we want this local to be five years from now?’” – Tom Breslin

Thanks to Diane Young, Division of Membership, Massachusetts Nurses Association, for taking the photos!

Hear from a student enrolled in the course about the topics being covered, what they’re learning, and more! This week’s reflection is written by Ross McDonagh, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 25.

Ross McDonagh, IBT Local 25

So far in our class, instructor Tom Breslin has taught us many things about the grievance process such as: the nine tests for just cause, how arbitrators are picked, and most importantly the “organizing model” for unions. This past week, we started to delve deeper into organizing members around a specific grievance– in this case, a termination grievance.

The class has been excellent so far, with much spirited discussion amongst all of our brother and sister classmates. Tom has illustrated and pointed out how different unions may handle grievances in different ways prior to arbitration. Through these discussions, not only have we learned tips and tricks from each other, but Tom has always been at the ready with solid answers to questions anyone may have about both theoretical and procedural issues and more importantly, ideas on how to handle grievances and unite the members of a bargaining unit to stand up for their rights! I highly recommend this class to anyone interested in learning more about the grievance procedures and organizing itself, which is the lifeblood of trade unionism.

Get to know one of the students in the week’s featured class! This week we’re excited to learn from Alison Sheppard, Facilities Manager at MWRA and Steward with USW 9360.

“I could do something that bored the hell out of me and even make a lot of money doing it; or do something I love and I’m really good at, but have to fight to get and keep jobs regardless of my qualifications. I would rather fight to do something I love than be bored. Someone’s got to push the envelope or things never change.” – Alison Sheppard

Alison Sheppard is a Facilities Manager at MWRA and a Steward with USW 9360. She has been coming to the Guild since 2015.

Alison began her career in construction many years before coming to the MWRA. After earning a B.A., she attended the Boston Architectural College and received a degree in Architecture. While at BAC, she also worked full time building teaching hospitals. Not wanting to do a thesis that was just a rehash of prior design projects, she decided to work on designing a housing prototype based on her theory that something could be done architecturally to improve the lives of single-parent families. At that time, no one was talking about these issues, and Alison was determined to find out if there were ways to make things better. Through her research and her design process, Alison realized that architectural changes—like being able to share resources that alone were unaffordable to individual single parent families, and easy access to public transportation—that were crucial for this group were welcome amenities for everyone else.

The desire to help others and improve conditions is something Alison brings to her work, and something she has fought for throughout her career. She is usually the only woman at male-dominated job sites and in meetings. According to Alison, “I’ve always helped everybody, especially anyone dealing with the problem of being the ‘odd person’ out.  We shouldn’t all have to learn the same lessons the hard way every time, and everyone should be accepted on their own merits.” Because of her gender, throughout her career Alison has faced continuous harassment, discrimination and disregard of her skills. However, she has never given up or left construction. She says, “I’m stubborn. I really love the work and I’m really good at it. It’s really demanding work, especially when you are doing construction in a place like an ICU where it is critical that you do not make a mistake. I always love a challenge and learning something new. Many of the projects I ended up with are projects that no one else wanted because they were too difficult. Those were my favorite projects and where I learned the most.”

Alison has many stories from her experiences as a woman in the construction field, and is in the process of writing a book that will teach others tools and strategies that she developed that have been vital for her. The focus? “The two most important things you need are self respect and a sense of humor, neither of which are easy to maintain in a continuously hostile environment,” Alison says.

Alison is also dedicated to helping people find information about education and training opportunities, including at the Guild. Alison found out about the Guild when she volunteered to become a steward. Of Guild classes, she says, “We’re getting real-world experience. That kind of stuff is really important, because it gives you a perspective that you can never get just through books and lectures. That’s something that’s so nice about all of the teachers at the Guild is that they have a lot of real world experience. I can’t ever remember having an instructor there that wasn’t really good.” Alison has enjoyed many classes at the Guild, including the current classes she is taking—Next Steps for Stewards: Organizing Around the Grievance Process and Resistance in a Trump Presidency: Winning Strategies for Progressive Electoral and Legislative Campaigns—as well as last term’s course on the election, because it covered what was happening in real time.

Since her first term, Alison is the one talking about the Guild in union meetings, pushing for increased training budgets and encouraging others to take classes and get educated. She has also shared with us a number of other organizations and sources that you will soon be able to see on our updated resources page! The Guild is lucky to have a dedicated learner and leader like Alison!

Inspired by something from this week’s posts? Want to know how to continue learning and acting on the issues? Check out the resources below!

Navigating the Five Steps of Grievance Handling, AFSCME Tutorial
The Steward’s Basics, USW (one in a four-part series!)

Week 3– Persuasive Public Speaking: Building Effective Presentation and Persuasion Skills; taught by Richard Reilly, Arbitrator, and Allyson Every, Executive Director of The Labor Guild

Course Description: Political candidates hone and practice stump speeches to paint a vivid picture that wins support. Union leaders and community activists must also persuade and communicate effectively with members, managers, and groups in all kinds of situations. Whether discussing changes in labor law and relevant Supreme Court cases, or explaining union positions or benefits, practice and polish your speaking skills in a friendly, supportive environment with guidance and feedback from the instructors.


Instructor bios:

Richard (Rick) Reilly is an arbitrator who has handled cases all over the world, travelling from the US to the UK to China. He worked for many years as the Vice President of the American Arbitration Association and was chair of the Massachusetts Joint Labor Management Committee. Rick has also acted in numerous productions with the Beijing Playhouse.


Allyson Every is the Executive Director of The Labor Guild. She took her first Guild classes as a young union steward and organizer, and was elected president of the Boston Globe’s editorial and business union. The later half of her 27-year Globe career was as a manager and writer in circulation marketing and then public relations. Allyson served on the Guild board from 1981-1989, including a term as president. Returning as a Guild volunteer in 2011, she has served as Executive Director since 2012.

What are students watching and discussing? Take a look at the video below to find out!

Students watched this video in their Monday night session: TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking

Also, think about this great tip: speakers drink water when they are trying to stall. Opening and taking a drink from a water bottle buys time for the speaker to refocus and formulate what they are about to say.

Get a glimpse of the action, and hear some of the ideas that were discussed. Remember, there’s much more to come as the week continues!

“Our union was part of the New Hampshire fight to keep so-called Right to Work out of the Northeast. It worked. When we fight, we win!” – Claudette Wright, IBEW 2222

“We have to stand up for what we value in our home communities, too. At a Derry, NH Selectmen’s meeting, I told them that I’m all about safety now. Before I joined the union, I worked non-union construction jobs that put my life in danger. I want to be able to come home to my family after a day’s work. I told them that goes for any worker that my tax dollars help pay.” – Chris McDonough, Carpenters Local #33

“Union strong is American strong.” – Judith Foster

Hear from a student enrolled in the course about the topics being covered, what they’re learning, and more! This week’s reflection is written by Claudette Wright, IBEW 2222.


I am a student in this class for the very first time. I have never been more excited to study with my brothers and sisters from all walks of life from the unions and neighborhoods throughout the country.

One of the reason I love this class is because we can see the personalities of all members of the class and build positive relationships. Building relationships is one of the most important things a person can do for happiness and harmony.

[I also think that] learning how to be an effective speaker is an essential key to allowing all voices to be heard at the table. Advocacy and mediation are so necessary for all people, who need solutions and not resolutions. When we take the time out and think, analyze, speak and articulate effectively, it can change the outcome and influence a positive direction of collective and individual goals. I also learned that it is impossible to be a public speaker with poor listening skills. [At the same time,] silence is an answer that can be more harmful than good. The way you speak and the influence matters so much, if it is not from a righteous perspective. Public speaking is a career and speakers can use it for the good of the people or with bad intent.



I am still learning, and I recommend anybody that needs to build positive relationships join the Labor Guild and take classes.

“I enjoy making connections with people, I like talking to members and finding out what’s important to them. I want to give people a voice especially when they don’t think they have one.”

Get to know one of the students in the featured class! This week, we’re excited to hear from Cara Madarese, Shop Steward and Executive Board member of OPEIU Local 6.

Cara has been a Shop Steward for 12 years, 10 of which have been in the Office of Court Management where she currently works. She initially became a steward at her business managers request. “He saw that I didn’t have a hard time standing up for myself or others […] I don’t like to see people being bullied, I want everybody to have a voice.” She says that issues in her workplace, “Come in waves. Sometimes it can be really good, and sometimes it can be really bad. We are always in the spotlight because we’re in the public sector.” Because of that, “It’s hard, people are afraid they’ll lose their jobs” if they stand up to management.

However, over the years that Cara has been a steward, she says that it has gotten easier to speak up and do her job, and to know that there are people on her side and who are standing with her in her union.

The union like Cara has grown stronger and she has worked to bring others into leadership roles. “What I find to be the most difficult is engaging the members and organizing them. The managers have no problem keeping everyone separated.” To combat the isolation, Cara connects and builds relationships with people in her workplace, and has also encouraged other union members to take on small leadership roles. She keeps lines of communication open with employees in other departments and other court offices in the area.

Cara first learned about the Guild from George Noel, Business Manager at OPEIU Local 6. She says that George has worked hard to bring the union closer together, in part, by educating members and introducing them to the Guild.

Cara began taking classes at the Guild last year, and plans to continue her education. About the Guild, Cara says: “I’m from a clerical union, and there’s a lot of tradesman [at classes]. They come from a different working environment. It’s interesting to hear the different scenarios and situations they’ve experienced and how they have helped correct the problems, especially the situations related to health and safety. Learning from your peers and other students in the class is important.”

For this current term, Cara is taking the classes Next Steps For Stewards: Organizing Around the Grievance Process and Persuasive Public Speaking: Building Effective Presentation and Persuasion Skills.

The second class is outside her comfort zone, but she says, “Rick Reilly is great. I don’t particularly like public speaking, but I find that he gets you into the material. He gets everyone involved. I definitely have challenged myself with this class.”

The Guild is very lucky to have Cara as a student and community member!

Inspired by something from this week’s posts? Want to know how to continue learning and acting on the issues? Check out the resources below!

Public Speaking Tips, Toastmasters International

Week 4– Resistance in a Trump Presidency: Winning Strategies for Progressive Electoral and Legislative Campaigns; taught by Paul Feeney, Legislative Director, IBEW 2222

Course Description: This class explores modern electoral and legislative campaigns, how unions and union members can make a difference to elect pro-worker candidates, and how they can hold those officials accountable once elected. We will explore the basics of campaigns: from organization to campaign plans and budgeting to targeting. We will discuss lessons learned from 2016 and debrief what worked and what didn’t work. We will also explore important parts of a winning campaign: field, messaging, modeling, communications, digital organizing, fundraising, and coalition building, etc.


Instructor bio: Paul Feeney is the Legislative Director for IBEW Local 2222. He was the Massachusetts State Director for the Bernie Sanders Campaign and also served as a selectman for the Town of Foxborough from 2007 until 2010. Just last week, Paul announced that he is running for state senate. This summer, he will be running in a special election to fill the seat previously held by Jim Timilty. This district covers Bristol and Norfolk, including parts of Attleboro and Sharon, as well as Mansfield, Foxboro, Norton, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Walpole, and Medfield.


What are students learning and discussing? Take a look at instructor Paul Feeney’s comments and the article below to find out!

This piece posted on CNN earlier this year illustrates a common theme we have discussed throughout the class. It highlights the neurological science behind our reactions to politics. Each class has been about different aspects of an electoral campaign, but the overriding concept is that people don’t think about politics, they feel politics. We need to be cognizant of this approach as we work to elect pro-labor candidates at every level.

This is why you get worked up about politics, according to science, CNN

Share This