Written by: Ezekiel Gacee

When analyzing labor education and trade movements, there is always the likelihood that people will miss the big picture of the legacy that is labor and trade unions. Despite their current weaknesses, trade unions and labor movements play a critical role in shaping society today. Most predominantly, labor unions and movements have challenged technological advances that somehow affect human labor, formed a more interactive relationship with the management, and encouraged profitable innovation within an organization.

The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Trade Union Training 

Michel Newman has made significant contributions that have enhanced people’s perception of adult education and lifelong learning. Most significantly, Newman has published numerous books that explore ground issues facing the society today and the opportunities that exist for activist educators. The Third Contract: Theory and practice in trade union training (1993) is one of Newman’sNewman’s books that explores the fundamental principles in unionism.

This book sets the theoretic framework that most trade unions feel most comfortable with through the constant use of anecdotes, case studies, and picturesque representations.

Union Training

Finally, the steps involved in preparing for, engaging in, and following up a negotiation in a workplace are revised. Up plays the management and the other the union representative.

A review then follows, which involves the trainer debriefing. The negotiation’s objective should be to solve the problem, and often, a question crucial to the evaluation of any union activity is, “did we make a gain for our members?”

In “The Third Contract,” the author outlines different styles that different trainers use. In his experience, he cites that he has worked with four trainers who have different approaches. He notes that over 3.1 million workers are members of unions in Australia; hence, the participants are large in number.

Michael Newman quotes Ford and Plowman (1983),” the union movement is heterogeneous and unions differ from each other in structure, size, coverage and political color.” The current union culture is that the structural face is changing, where many marriages are seeking amalgamation or forming industry groupings. Against talks about union history, which is about the union participants collaborating to protect themselves and protect others.

Unionists share a general culture, and this implies that they share methods and language. The teaching modes used by the trainers should adhere to the culture. Three teaching modes cited include the didactic, the Socratic, and the facilitative, and the author emphasizes that union training need to be a blend of the three methods. 


Three types of contracts are analyzed. That is, contracts entered into by a trainer employed by management, those entered into by an adult educator, and agreements entered into by the trade union trainer. The trainer is not a party to the third in the contracts mentioned above. The third contract is between the participants engaging in the training and the various unions they belong to; the participants are educated and evaluate the worth and relevance against their own experience as union activists.

They then apply and test how learning is essential in representing their members more effectively once they are back in their workplaces. In essence, the third contract protects the participant from being viewed as a ”puppet” employee by the union and from the trainer in case they misuse their authority.

   It produces curriculum design models that show the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating training programs. This tradition gives adult education an activist, political niche and helps develop the community.


Development of adult education began with adult schools where the aim was to learn how to read the Bible. Adult schools concerned with elementary education grew to become mechanics institutes involved with scientific knowledge and later became established technical institutes and colleges.

In the 1820s-1830s in Britain, the first wave of trade unionism grew and developed. Robert Owen influenced the establishment of cooperative organizations. The working men smen’s college followed and later developments resulted to the university extension movement and the Workers’Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). An alliance between the WEA and the universities produced a perfect expression of the Liberal Adult Education tradition.

 They got government funding.

Workers Educational Associations were later established in most capital cities.

In Britain, in partnership first, with the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and then with other Unions, the WEA formed the Workers’Workers’ Educational Trade Union Committee to organize and oversee educational programs for union members 1919.

When TUC took over the roles of WEA and Council of Labor Colleges in 1965, it allowed their education officers to promote training and develop materials concerned with equipping union officials with skills to perform their roles. In Australia, the Australian Trade Union Training Authority (TUTA) came into existence in 1975. It dominated union training in Australia.

Mechanistic Model

In the Mechanistic mode, we can trace the development of trainers’ kinds of curriculum design model; this is achieved by analyzing writers from the mechanistic tradition. He cites Ralph Tyler in his book, “Basic Principles in Curriculum and Instruction,” Cyril Houle in the book “The Design of Education”, Malcolm Knowles in his theory of andragogy as portrayed in the texts “The Modern Practice of Adult Education”” and “The Adult Learner-a Neglected Species” and Laurie field’s “Skilling Australia.”

  Performing follows where the group performs effectively by 

Martin reflects on his education as a labor activist and educator. When he took a job as a Canadian education director for the Steel Workers (USWA) in Toronto in 1978, he brings us up through the mid-1990s. 

The book’s frame is Martin’s personal story, and the content is his thoughts about learning to do his job. His position put him in contact with workers all over Canada. The focus lies in these relationships created with the workers. He gives us many brief moments of perception, that is, the impact of a thoughtless remark by a manager, the way a comment dropped in a chance meeting on a plane, or at a lunch counter resonates.

Later in another context, the calm mood of a small group of rank and file managers after a vote, the choices made by union leaders as they approach a contested election.

He reflects on these moments to illuminate the choices he makes as a labor educator who is both a “radical democrat” and “conscious romantic.” He then generalizes from them, attempting to develop a strategy for union education and educators.

Early in the book, he lays out ten “dynamics or cross-currents” that he uses to locate his work in the union movement. He also illustrates three metaphors for the flow of communication and power within unions: staircase, web, and channel. They let the reader in on the kind of logical structure that underpins his reflections. The author suggests that educators should humanize themselves and meet the learners halfway.

Within the Canadian Labor Movements, the dialogue-based approach has been on the rise, a complete contrast from previous years where unions adopted the imposition based system.


The book Thinking Union by D’ArcyD’Arcy Martins outlines that a labor educator is a minor player in labor movements and political dynamics. Newman’s position on labor is that ”the members are the union.” He uses this description to show the relationship that exists between the participants and the unions. On the other hand, Martin believes that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in Canada, something that is driving the feeling that self-interest and the material push are legitimate.


D’ArcyD’Arcy M. (1995). Thinking Union: Activism and Education in Canada’sCanada’s Labour Movement. Toronto: Between the Lines

Newman, M. (2002). The Third Contract: Theory and Practice in Union Training. Sydney: Centre for Popular Education, University of Technology.