Livingston & McLean County Labor
Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly / Livingston & McLean Counties Building & Trades Council
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  • What did you learn at work today?
    Updated On: Sep 04, 2014

    What did you learn at work today? by Helena Worthen

    We all learn something new.  We learn from school, family and friends, and much of what we learn is on the job.  That can not only mean job skills, but also learning human personalities, workplace issues and basic job justice.

    Though few in number, some universities, like the University of Illinois, have labor education programs.  The professors and scholars there work for and with workers, sometimes on direct job issues, sometimes on union training.

    Helena Worthen, in What did you learn at work today?” takes her years of labor education and slimmed them down, seeking to understand how we learn on the job and in the union hall.

    Unless you are a teacher, most Americans don’t think about learning styles or philosophies.  Worthen covers four different analyses of how we learn and applies them to everyday situations.  

    She then does case studies of workers she’s been involved with: striking AFSCME care workers in Effingham, inner-city pre-apprenticeship trainees, garment workers, trade apprentices, power plant technicians and teachers.  Through each case, she documents on how workers’ empowerment and involvement changed not only their work lives, but them personally. 

    Perhaps the most fascinating chapter is how children view their working parents.   Worthen served as a scholarship judge for AFSCME and read hundreds of essays on “What does AFSCME do for my family?”  We often forget how observant children are of family dynamics, how job security or insecurity impacts the family and how much pride they take in their parents and their work.  The Labor Movement is missing a great opportunity by not including union families and their children in activities, as these essay writers are often very insightful on how the union maintains their family unit.  

    Ultimately, a union is about workers developing power to better their conditions.  Knowledge is power.  How we gain and maintain worker knowledge is the great lesson of this book.

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