Fort Worth Local 440 President Jim Tate, Savannah, GA Local 574 President Robert Milie and Puget Sound, WA Local F-282 President Taska Elin all received scholarships from the IAFF to attend the Harvard Trade Union Program from January 12-20, 2015. In addition, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts President Ed Kelly participated in the six-week program courtesy of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
“Who would have ever thought I’d be afforded the opportunity to attend such an inspirational institution, but that’s exactly where I found myself,” says Taska, who was one of the 44 students from seven countries representing 30 professions participating in the union leadership program.
“I want to thank the IAFF for the opportunity to attend the Harvard Trade Union Program,” says Tate. “It was an amazing experience, and really useful to step back from our day-to-day union business and take a look at the ‘big picture’ of what the labor movement as a whole is facing, not only here in the United States but around the world.”
“I have obtained both my undergraduate and graduate degree, and found this program to be the most rewarding educational experience to date,” says Milie. “I have already begun to put my knowledge and experience from the program into practice within Local 574.”
The course curriculum is designed to help participants gain insights into the complex political, social and economic forces that shape their operating environment; exchange perspectives internationally recognized faculty; develop relationships among people doing similar work in the national and international labor communities; and interact with future leaders in the private and public sectors.
“To be honest, as the president of a small local, I thought I was far beyond my capability,” says Taska. “But as I look back on the whole experience, I am reminded of a quote from Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible!”
The labor movement today faces unprecedented change and profound challenges, and the Harvard program teaches union leaders new approaches to organizing, bargaining and running their union.
“I came away with the knowledge and tools that will be very useful in the battles we face,” notes Tate. “That gives me hope that we can overcome these great challenges.”
Since 1942, the Harvard Trade Union Program has prepared union activists to meet the challenge of dynamic leadership within their unions and society. The program helps union leaders develop keener analytical, managerial and problem-solving skills, as well as discover ways to deepen public understanding of the value and importance of labor unions.