Introduction to the Power Resources Tool Kit

The Power Resources Tool Kit has been designed to take specific problems that workers and unions are facing and turn them into collective action and workable plans. 

While we acknowledge that workers and their unions have been under massive attack by neoliberalism, we believe in workers’ agency and the power of collective action.

The Power Resources Tool Kit is action-oriented.  It has been created to help build worker and union power.  The Tool Kit will serve you best if you use it to take concrete and collective action to make use of and increase power.

The Tool Kit addresses a wide range of activities. It can help you and your union plan large international campaigns, organise workers in a specific workplace, win collective bargaining, push for better legislation, or fight for climate justice or against gender or race inequities. The goal underlying the Power Resources Tool Kit is to assist unions and workers' organisations in meeting these challenges.  

All types of workers’ organisations and unions can use the Tool Kit:  enterprise-based unions, sectoral unions, trade union confederations, national trade union centres, regional trade union organisations, workers’ associations and committees, or hybrid forms of organisation. The materials were developed with this broad set of organisations and situations in mind. In the Tool Kit, the word union will be used to include all worker organisations and collective groups of workers seeking to improve working and social conditions.

The Power Resources Tool Kit uses a trade union education approach that fosters collective action. The Tool Kit format allows for small group discussions, larger workshops, a guided mentoring process or self-study.  The materials can be used in person or online.   

Collective learning is crucial for increasing worker power and developing a common sense of organisational identity. Leadership needs to be grounded in collective learning, helping current and potential leaders to grow in skills and experience. With worker education we can come together to create collective plans, build deeper relationships among workers, and share information, skills and perspectives.  



If you would like assistance or ideas from FES in planning how to use the Power Resources Tool Kit with your union, you can contact unionstransform(at)

You may also obtain resources and assistance from your local unions, labour research institutes, labour support organisations and global union federations.

What you will find in this Tool Kit

After an Introduction to Power Resources, the Tool Kit begins with core materials and activities. We urge you to review these core materials first. They are essential for your work, whether you are doing campaigning, organising, collective bargaining, organisational transformation, or advocacy work.   

The Core Materials section will help you analyse your situation, set collective goals and prepare to work collectively.




Preparing to Work Collectively

Strategic Planning


No matter what topic area you focus on, you will need to review the section on Core Materials.    

For example, if you are going to use the Tool Box to help you plan a collective bargaining campaign, you will need to use almost all of the sections in “Core Materials”, including the section on “Participatory Action Research” to gather information about workers’ working conditions.  You will need the section on “Worker Communication Networks / Arbolitos” to create a base of active support for contract bargaining in the workplace.   

Once you are familiar with the “Core Materials”, you can apply them to



Choose the topical area in which you want to use the tool kit and determine the specific focus of your union work.  

Organisational transformation encompasses a substantial change to what the union is and does.  It involves a change in attitudes/mentalities, priorities and resource allocation and operating processes. The organisational transformation materials can help unions face a variety of global challenges, ranging from climate justice to the growth of informal and precarious work.  There are materials on discrimination, anti-racism, gender equity, and young workers, as well as union restructuring and organisation.

Campaigning and Organising are linked, as campaigns which force decision-makers to improve conditions are excellent opportunities to increase workers’ participation and membership in the union.  

Organising is more than just recruiting new members. Rather, it aims at increasing the participation of workers in our unions and communities, with the goal of increasing union power. The massively growing number of precarious workers without union representation means that organising and union growth must be a top priority globally and locally. Focusing on organising will help to overcome the lack of information and counteract fear, apathy, or violence that keep workers from participating in the union. 

A campaign is a comprehensive effort to exert pressure on the various strategic relationships of an employer or decision-maker in order to bring about improvements for working people. Campaigns, if successful, often lead to collective bargaining or changes in decision, policy or regulation.

Collective bargaining includes all negotiations that take place between a union or workers’ organisation and an employer(s) or group of decision-makers with the goal of regulating and improving working conditions.
After reaching an agreement, workers and unions enforce the provisions they have won.

Advocacy by worker’s organisations involve the many issues at and beyond the immediate realm of workplace labour relations that profoundly impact the lives of working people and the power of labour unions, but cannot be addressed by negotiations with employers or collective bargaining.  Sometimes workers’ organisations will devise and carry out campaigning and organising on these issues to affect political, regulatory, or legislative change. Examples of this are campaigns for a national minimum wage, for the ratification of ILO conventions, for or against certain clauses in free trade agreements under negotiation, for changes in tax policies, or health and safety regulations et cetera. 

How to use the Tool Kit

The Tool Kit materials are meant to be adjusted and changed. It is not expected that they will be used in their entirety. You will need to adapt them to the situation each and every time you use them. There is no one ‘right’ answer about how to build worker power and no “correct” order to the steps. Use your own knowledge and experience to decide how to fit the Tool Kit to your situation. 

The Tool Kit can be used to conduct workshops with larger groups of workers, more informal discussion with smaller groups, as a mentoring guide, or for self-study.

  • Small group discussion questions are in blue boxes. The answers can be used to create a written action plan which can be shared. The blue boxes can also be used for self-study or mentoring.
  • Sample workshop and study circle curriculums are provided.
  • Examples and case studies are found in red boxes. Additional examples and case studies are also available at the FES Trade Unions in Transformation website. 


The Power Resources Tool Kit is designed to help workers and union leaders create specific plans for organisational transformation, campaigning and organising, collective bargaining and contract enforcement, and advocacy.

As you work with these materials and adjust them to your own situation, we recommend that you check with legal counsel to ensure you are working within your own national legal frameworks.

If you are doing campaigning, organising, collective bargaining or advocacy work:

Identify and briefly describe a specific problem or problems, a campaign, work location or industry where you will work to build worker power.

If you are doing organisational transformation work:

The Took Box section on organisational transformation provides materials on the following topics:  climate justice, discrimination (with specific materials on anti-racism, gender equity and youth), informal workers, increasing worker participation in the work of the union and union restructuring and cooperation.

Identify and briefly describe what specific issues you want to address.  Discuss whether you will focus on the entire union or workforce, or a specific part.

For both workshops and small group discussions, you will need to plan how often you meet, who is to attend, and what follow-up will be needed. Involving as many rank and file workers as possible in the action planning will increase the strength and power of the union.  Workshops, small group discussions and mentoring can be done online or in person.

It is important to concentrate our union resources and efforts where we can have the greatest chance of success.  You may want to start in a very small targeted area with a few workers, particularly if there are internal difficulties or divisions in the union. A good place to begin all union work is by reaching out more to the base of workers.  The section on Participatory Action Research (link) will give you a systematic method for reaching out to workers.

You will want to ensure that any groups that are under-represented in the union structures are involved and included. Pay attention to the balance of gender, age, job types, race, language, nationality, geographic area, other groups and the workers at the intersections of these groups. Make sure that workers and lower-ranking union officials are able to talk freely and that top officials do not dominate.

Types of activity


In a workshop, you can either 1) plan one campaign or tackle an organisational problem together, or 2) you can divide into small groups, each of which focuses on their own campaign or problem.  

You will want to recruit a ‘vertical slice’ of the union for your workshop. A vertical slice includes top union or organisational leaders, rank and file workers, delegates, workplace representatives and union staff – anyone involved in the actual work you are planning. When top union leaders are present in the workshop, the planning will be done in a way that meets the overall needs of the leadership. When rank and file workers participate in the planning they are more likely to volunteer and take responsibility for important parts of the work. Their presence will also make sure that your plans are grounded in a thorough knowledge of the workers and workplaces.

Small Group Discussions

The materials can be used with smaller groups by answering the discussion and planning questions in the blue boxes. You will need to review and adjust each of the questions to fit your situation. The answers to the questions in the blue boxes can be used to create a written plan that can be shared with others.

Small group meetings can take place in worker's homes, cafes, community spaces or other safe locations. The meetings should be fun and nurture a sense of the collective.  The small groups can either be informal and social or be run with an agenda (as in a study circle). Study circles enable small groups of participants to learn together, and from each other.

For more information on study circles:


Mentoring can support a deeper sharing of experience and knowledge and can be a helpful way to support union activists and leaders who are engaged in campaigning and organising, collective bargaining or organisational development work.  

Mentors and mentees should meet regularly and can use the blue box discussion questions as a guide. Both participants should be willing to challenge habits and assumptions and be open to new ideas and provide praise and support for each other.  Clear, direct and honest feedback should be given with kindness.  

If you write down the answers from the questions in the blue boxes as you go, you will create a written campaign or action plan together.

Will you use the Tool Kit for:

  • Workshops?
  • Small group discussions?
  • Mentoring? 
  • Self-study?

Which workers, union leaders and staff should be involved?

Can you increase the number of rank and file workers involved in the action planning?

Are there members of underrepresented groups that you will need to recruit?