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Guiding Future Union Leaders: New Handbook Shares Best Practices in Mentoring

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

Mentoring is an essential tool for moving organizations forward: young members learn new leadership skills and are given a lay of the land when it comes to their working environment. A new handbook by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), produced with funding and support from the Berger-Marks Foundation, gives valuable advice for developing and implementing mentoring programs for union members and staff.

The handbook, Elevating the Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders, defines and describes various types of mentoring, outlines strategies for addressing potential obstacles or roadblocks in the mentoring process, and includes methods for making mentoring programs sustainable. It also includes worksheets to help mentors and mentees get the most out of their mentoring relationship, and to enable union leaders to identify the strengths of their mentoring programs and possible areas for improvement.

Mentoring can especially help women and people of color, who face specific challenges in advancing their careers. These programs can help women build professional networks and make connections. And mentoring programs can help unions cultivate more diverse leadership. Testimonials from respondents who participated in union mentorship programs attest to the benefits that mentoring had for themselves and their unions.

“[As a result of the mentoring,] I ended up being very successful…the program that I was running ended up being held up as a model,” said one former union mentee. “And our international union has really recognized the work that I was doing. And that, I’m sure, would not have happened if I hadn’t gotten the help that I needed to be really successful.”

This important tool is the result of a series of interviews with close to a dozen union members who were participants in mentoring programs. Carolyn Jacobson, Director of Cervical Cancer Prevention Works, Coalition of Labor Union Women and Secretary-Treasurer of the Berger-Marks Foundation, and Yvette Herrera, Senior Director of Education and Communications at the Communications Workers of America and Trustee of the Berger Marks Foundation, provided feedback on the handbook and guidance at various project phases. Pat Greenfield, Professor at the National Labor College, and Elizabeth Gres, Program Director of the Organizational Equity Initiative at the Service Employees International Union, also reviewed the handbook in its final stages and offered helpful suggestions. Jamie Lumm, Direction of Education at the National Association of Letter Carriers, provided important input on the handbook’s final chapter.

The handbook will be available through the IWPR and Berger-Marks websites this spring.

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