IFT’s Union Leadership Institute (ULI) program has been designed to meet the needs of both new and experienced local leaders and activists in all IFT constituency groups. ULI provides participants with hands-on learning of union skills, professional development opportunities and a chance to network with other IFT members from throughout the state. We have adapted our training to meet the changing needs of union leadership as we grapple with COVID-19 and racial injustice.

Boot Camp for Union leaders

Designed for newly-elected leaders, prospective leaders or for veteran leaders who want to recharge their skills, this course will help participants develop and enhance their leadership skills to ensure the success of their locals/councils in today’s challenging education, economic and political climate. Participants will:

  • Build skills and clarify roles of local officers and activists.

  • Learn skills to work with different learning and leadership styles in order to build an effective team.

  • Compile a leadership toolbox of valuable skills and resources.

  • Enhance the essential skills to empower and motivate others to be actively engaged in the union; and,

  • Have fun in the leadership role!


Building and Sustaining
Union Power

A successful member-driven issues campaign can have positive impact on our members’ lives. This course will provide the tools needed to plan and implement your own issues-based campaign. Lessons learned can apply to policy, politics, local issues, community concerns, or elected officials who support our members. Participants will create a draft campaign that they can implement in their local or council. This course will cover elements of an effective campaign, including:

  • Identifying the best practices to develop your issues-based campaign.

  • Working collaboratively with the community to advance your union’s issue.

  • Developing your union message.

  • Organizing internally and recruiting volunteers; and understanding various opportunities to engage in our political and legislative systems.


2021-22 union leadership institute

FALL: NOVEMBER 6-7, 2021 (in-person)

WINTER: FEBRUARY 5-6, 2022 (virtual)

SPRING: APRIL 23-24, 2022 (in-person)

Effective Grievance Administration

This interactive course will help participants master the grievance process with group practice and simulated role play. This course will help participants develop critical skills designed to:

  • Separate gripes from grievances.

  • Develop grievance investigation and research skills.

  • Take problem-solving approaches to settlement.

  • Write, prepare, and present grievances.


Introduction to Collective Bargaining

This training provides those with little or no bargaining experience with an understanding of how and why negotiations work and prepares participants to actively engage in the bargaining process. Participants will:

  • Review collective bargaining laws.

  • Learn the different stages in a negotiation.

  • Prepare and write negotiation proposals.

  • Learn what makes the negotiation team work well together; and, learn how the mediation process works.



Registration fees of $125 per in-person session, and $75 for the virtual session includes course materials and meals for the in-person sessions.


Hotel accommodations are available. See registration form for details.

Enrollment is limited for each course and registration applications will be processed in the order they are received. Classes will only be held with a minimum enrollment of 8 participants per class.


Registration confirmation notices, weekend agendas and other information will be e-mailed to participants prior to each weekend session.


Locals’ costs for participation in ULI are eligible for IFT’s UPD Rebate program.


Cancelation requests must be received at btwillie@ift-aft.org by Monday, November 1st to be eligible for a partial refund.


IFT will make every effort to ensure that accommodations are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  If a conference participant anticipates a special need ensuing from a disability, the participant should contact Benita Twillie at 630/468-4080. Early notice is necessary since some accommodations may require significant advance notice.

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SAFETY MITIGATIONS: To help ensure the health and safety of all participants and staff, ALL participants and staff must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or provide proof of a negative COVID test. Please see ULI Registration form for details.


Lee Ann Gemmingen

Southwestern Illinois Federation of Teachers, Local 6600

The LEAD training we received helped us to plan, strategize, and implement our ideas to move forward with our vision of building partnerships to educate, empower, and evolve.


George rosa

Elgin Community College Faculty Association, Local 3791

Understanding our contracts and how to defend them is more critical than ever. There is no better place to learn that than from experienced union staff and activists.


terri berg

Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Local 6099

Worksite Leader training helped me see
how important it is to establish one-on-one
connections with coworkers. I have so many new ideas now and plan to pursue a leadership position in my local.

professional development & training

(Leadership Education and Development)

The IFT, in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Cornell University, offers the LEAD program to help local union and council teams establish strong relationships with their members and the community. Throughout the year-long program, LEAD teams hold several collaborative meetings to assess their challenges, determine how to strategically overcome them, and develop an effective action plan.


Professional Issues Training and Support
IFT members are experts in their fields and uniquely qualified to train their colleagues. After completing an IFT Train-the-Trainer course, members are armed with the skills and materials they need to conduct professional development programs in their locals.

IFT members have instructed many programs in their own locals and councils, including:  
Initial Teachers Evaluation Training

Evaluation Empowerment

Building Responsive and Trauma-Informed Schools

Worksite Leader (WSL) Training
The WSL program is designed to help union activists be effective worksite leaders in their building or workplace. By informing and engaging members, WSLs play a critical role in growing and strengthening their locals and the IFT.

To become a WSL graduate participants must complete five courses, including:
Union 101
Communications and Information
Worksite Advocacy
Mobilization and Engagement
Political, Legislative, and Community Engagement


Union leadership institute (ULI)

NOVEMBER 6-7 • FEBRUARY 5-6, 2022 • APRIL 23-24, 2022

IFT’s ULI program has been designed to meet the needs of both new and experienced local leaders and activists in all IFT constituency groups. ULI provides participants with hands-on learning of union skills, professional development opportunities, and a chance to network with other IFT members from throughout the state.

Please check back in early September for full course descriptions and registration information.


Additional trainings and assistance are available based on local need and demand. Examples of custom programs include: campaign and candidate training, social media, current legislative issues, and the teacher evaluation process.

questions? Contact Benita Twillie at btwillie@ift-aft.org or 630/468-4080.

Being a union member is the most effective way to advocate for yourself, your profession, and those you serve.

Now more than ever, it's important that your elected officials hear from you. Office visits and phone calls are the most effective way to have your voice heard.

Empower yourself. Check your voter registration status, register, find IFT-endorsed candidates, and other useful voter tools and resources.

Explore our centralized hub of current issue campaigns and find grassroots volunteer opportunities to take action on your own time.

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