Building Trades Academy

A Partnership between North America's Building Trades Unions and Michigan State University

Building educational experiences to meet YOUR needs

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About us

Watch the video to learn more about the rich history of the Building Trades Academy and how we work with union staff and leadership to increase capacity and strengthen unions.


The Building Trades Academy conducts educational experiences that provide useful and practical knowledge and skills for the unionized construction trades staff and members. We specialize in conducting classes in all phases of organizing, negotiating, teaching techniques, labor law, research for organizing, women's leadership and more. All are customized for the construction industry.

Programming, which can last from one to five days, is customized to meet your needs and is led by skilled practitioners and educators in an atmosphere of solidarity. Our instructors are 'world-class', have taught and worked for years in and with the unionized construction industry, understand the power of participant interaction and the need for practical skill building. Nearly all of our classes are conducted in world class conference/educational centers owned and operated by unionized building trades affiliated unions and their union employer partners.

How we work: You provide the location and participants and we will come to you! Participants can belong to one trade (our cohort model) or include multiple trades from your area/region.

While we strongly believe in having classes in-person, we also recognize that isn't always possbile, so we also offer a blended model, where some classes are offered online and others in-person (usually a capstone or final celebration).

Give us a call to discuss your needs and we will make it happen!

"I loved the class. The instructors are some of the best ever."

- Course participant

Programs Offered

BTA 101:
Strategic Planning for Organizing

BTA 102:
Closing the Deal

BTA 103:
Getting the Word Out

BTA 104:
Campaign Organizing

BTA 105:
Contract Negotiations

BTA 106:
Labor Law for the Construction Industry

BTA 107:
Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3): Train-the-Trainer

BTA 108:
Business Managers Training

BTA 109:
Women's Leadership

BTA 110:
Research for Organizing


David Alexander

David Alexander, is Adjunct Professor at the University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center and has been involved in worker's education for over 35 years. For the past fifteen years, he has been primarily responsible for working with North America's Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, in the design and coordination of courses in their curriculum, and is the lead faculty person on the Contract Negotiations in the Construction Industry class. Prior to 2000, David spent twenty years as a full-time staff member at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, and served as adjunct professor at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has worked with a number of international unions on a variety of educational programs.

Eddie Escoto´ Alvarez

Eddie Escoto´ Alvarez, Eddie Escoto´ Alvarez is the Business Representative of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council and a Laborer (LIUNA 304) groundskeeper by trade. Eddie represents over 500 public sector members throughout Alameda County, as well as overseeing council political and communications outreach and Project Labor Agreement development. Eddie is the proud son of Mexican immigrants and was born into the union movement. His father is a 52-year member of IUEC, Elevator Constructors, Local 18, the grandson of a Bracero and a United HERE retiree. Eddie’s first union position came as a shop steward in the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department when he was 21 years old.

Eddie’s background in union organizing, education and politics gives him a unique perspective on how everyday issues affect workers. As national field director, and Iowa Caucus State Director for the Eric Swalwell Presidential campaign, Eddie has traveled the country seeing how anti-worker legislation has affected the collective bargaining process. Eddie worked closely with the Teamsters Local 238 to organize presidential campaign staffs, which has led to union contracts for political campaign workers all over America.

Eddie graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Montana with degrees in International Relations and Political Science. In his spare time you can find him rooting for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s or out on a trail with his pup Milo as ardent defenders of open and public lands. Eddie lives in Oakland, California with his fiancée Marcella and Milo.

John P. Beck

John P. Beck, is an Associate Professor in School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University. He previously served as Associate Director of the School and Director of the Labor Education Program working with unions on their educational needs across the state. Prior to joining the School, he served as the Education and Research Director of the United Paperworkers International Union. He holds degrees from both Michigan State and the University of Michigan where he taught for five years on the staff of the UM Labor Studies Center. He co-directs Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, a program at the MSU Museum, which explores labor history and workers culture.

Julie L. Brockman

Julie L. Brockman, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University. She teaches and consults for the Labor Education Program (LEP) and the Union Management Initiative (UMI) for unionized organizations in the private and public sectors. In addition, Julie is the Executive Director of the Building Trades Academy and the Executive Director of the Institute for Construction Economic Research (ICERES).

Prior to joining the faculty at Michigan State University, Julie spent 14 years in labor relations positions with Nestle Chocolate and Confections Company and TRW, Inc. Julie received her BA in Psychology from The Ohio State University, an MA in Organizational Communication from The Ohio State University, an MA in Labor and Industrial Relations from Michigan State University and a PhD in Adult Education from Michigan State University.

Kirk Brungard

Kirk Brungard, the son of a 50-year rank-n-file IBEW member, he spent over fifteen years working as an electrician in Los Angeles before joining his local union staff in 1998 where he served as an organizer, compliance officer, business development representative and assistant business manager. While in Los Angeles, Kirk was also a badged compliance officer for both the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, and the Los Angeles Unified School District. During that period, he also drafted Electrical Safety and Training language ultimately adopted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, and eventually various other public awarding agencies.

In 2005, Kirk was named the IBEW's Director of Construction Organizing in Washington, D.C. While in that position the labor organization reached an all-time high in Construction membership.

In late 2009, he joined AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler as her Chief of Staff. After nearly seven years in that role, he transitioned to the Director of the Foundation for Fair Contracting for the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia region.

Kirk holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Baltimore. He is a regular presenter for various large organizations and a core faculty member of the Michigan State University Building Trades Academy and the AFL-CIO's National Labor Leadership Institute.

Jim Ciment

Jim Ciment, who received his PhD in American economic history from the City University of New York, has taught American history and labor history for over 30 years. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in American and labor history at Cal Poly Pomona, one of the technical and engineering-oriented campuses of the California State University system. He helped develop and taught the labor history curriculum at Empire State College in New York City, a program established in cooperation with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to help union apprentices earn their Associate Arts degrees. He has researched and written on pre-apprenticeship programs in the construction trades, most recently writing up the grant that won NABTU an $8 million, five-year US Department of Labor grant to enhance and expand the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum program (MC3). Ciment also works as an editor and writer and has published several books on economic and labor history.

Kathleen M. Conlan

Kathleen M Conlan, is an educator at heart, having retired (June 2012) from the Education Director position with LIUNA (Laborers' International Union of North America). Kathleen has also spent many years teaching for the National Labor College, Penn State University and the North America's Building Trades Unions. She has her master's degree in Labor Studies from UDC; a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in Economics; and is certified as an Employee Benefits Specialist. Kathleen is a member of the United Association for Labor Education.

Regina (Jean) M. Dearden

Regina (Jean) M. Dearden (ret.), was the Director of the Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Program and the Chair of the Faculty Senate. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Instructional Systems Development, a BA in Communications/Journalism from Shippensburg University, and a certificate in Online Teaching from the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA Extension. She specializes in the development and design of effective training and adult learning. She has taught union leaders and members internationally in Egypt, Jordan, and South Africa.

Virginia Diamond

Virginia R. Diamond, JD, is a labor lawyer who began her career as an organizer with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in Virginia. She was Assistant Director of the Department of Organizing and Field Services at the National AFL-CIO, and has taught organizing and labor law at the National Labor College (formerly George Meany Center).

Virginia has worked with the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and the Virginia AFL-CIO. She is the author of several publications on organizing including Organizing Guide for Local Unions, Numbers that Count: Guide to Internal Organizing, and Labor Law Handbook.

She has a BA from Yale University, an MA from Columbia University Teacher's College, and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Bruce Holt

Bruce Holt, has been a member of the IUPAT for 38 years. While employed as a Union drywall finisher he was appointed to his city's Planning and Zoning Commission, and was elected Vice Chair after 2 years. He was elected to 4 terms as an Alderman reaching Board President in his fourth term. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, and then served as a Policy Advisor to two Governors of differing parties. He finished his political career as Chief of Staff for a Missouri State Senator. Bruce then was asked to serve as the Missouri State Lobbyist for the Missouri District Councils of his Union. He is now semi-retired, serving as a contract Missouri Lobbyist in the Capitol for IUPAT District Council #58 which serves Eastern Missouri and the southern half of Illinois.

Fred Kotler

Fred Kotler, JD, is a Government Relations Advisor in the School of Industiral and Labor Relations at Cornell University. He has extensive experience in education, training, and organizational development as a training specialist, program and course developer, instructor, administrator, and policy analyst, assisting organizations to develop the internal capacity for education and training.

He attended Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and received his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Thomas Kriger

Thomas J. Kriger, PhD, is the Director of Research at North America's Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO. From 2008 to 2012 Kriger was Professor of Labor Studies and Provost and Vice President for Academics at the National Labor College. He was Associate Budget Director for Research and Policy for the State University of New York System Administration from 2007 to 2008. From 1998 to 2007 he served as Assistant to the President and Director of Legislation and Research for United University Professions (Local #2190), the American Federation of Teacher's largest higher education local. Kriger has held faculty positions at the University of Northern Colorado, Providence College, and St. Lawrence University and is the author of numerous publications on labor issues.

Craig Merrilees

Craig Merrilees, has worked on diverse campaigns for labor, environmental and human rights organizations during the past four decades. He currently serves as Communications Director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Previously he directed a 16,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME), and served as a Communications Coordinator for the Teamsters Union reform administration in Washington, D.C. Merrilees co-directed the national field campaign that battled for for labor and environmental standards in the NAFTA trade agreement. He served as a media consultant for hundreds of grassroots environmental activists affiliated with the National Toxics Campaign who organized against dangerous incinerators, power plants and pesticides. In Chicago, he managed city-wide campaigns with Illinois Public Action for utility reform, urban transit, housing and other issues. In California, he’s staffed political campaigns, including four statewide ballot propositions that addressed environmental, education, health care and human rights issues. Other political action assignments include serving as Northern California Director of the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED) where he helped coordinate electoral and advocacy efforts with local governments and the State Legislature. Merrilees has also worked as a writer, producer, reporter and political analyst for television, radio and print news outlets. He and his work have appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour – along with profiles in The Wall Street Journal and other publications. He has testified before committees in Congress, state legislatures, local governments and has been a featured speaker at major universities and law schools. He was appointed to serve on California’s Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee for the North Central Region, and whenever possible, rides his bicycle to work across the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoys backpacking the John Muir Trail.

Jon Newman

Jon Newman, JD, is a shareholder at Sherman Dunn, P.C., a union-side law firm in Washington D.C. His practice is dedicated exclusively to the representation of labor unions, with a particular emphasis on unions in the building trades. He works closely with union officers and representatives to provide strategic and litigation counsel in connection with organizing campaigns. He also has extensive experience assisting unions with the negotiation and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements. In addition, Jon regularly provides counsel to unions on internal governance issues, including LMRDA compliance.

Jon litigates regularly in U.S. district courts, U.S. courts of appeals, state courts and before the National Labor Relations Board and other government agencies. He has also handled numerous arbitration matters.

Jon graduated with honors from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1994, and was a member of the Order of Coif. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Hamilton College in 1989. Jon is admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia, numerous U.S. courts of appeals, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is a member of the American and D.C. Bar Associations.

Peter Olney

Peter Olney, is the retired Director of Organizing for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Olney has been part of the labor movement for over 40 years. He has worked for numerous labor unions as an organizer and negotiator. Since coming to California in 1983 he has focused his work on building organization in the immigrant working class.

From 2001 until 2004 Olney was the Associate Director of the University of California's Institute for Labor and Employment (ILE). Olney has a Masters in Business Administration from UCLA. He resides in San Francisco, California.

Dan Pasini

Dan Pasini, IBEW President for Local 617, is a third year instructor for the SMJATC five-year program. Dan holds a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science Degree in Counseling and Career Counseling. He brings to this position a strong background in student services. Dan, for fourteen years, was a teacher and counselor at Mercy High School in San Francisco, California. In 1995, he entered the electrical industry as a non-union apprentice at Tandem Electric. In 1997, Dan was selected and completed his five-year apprenticeship with Local 617. The SMJATC is fortunate to have him as an accomplished instructor.

Glenn Perusek

Glenn Perusek, is an instructor/course coordinator for the Organizational and Membership Development course series. He has served as director of the Center for Strategic Research at the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC; as strategic research manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and worked on strategic campaigns at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He was instructor/coordinator for the AFL-CIO/Cornell University program on strategic research and campaigns. He earned a B.A. from Kent State University and holds MA and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago, where he was a Merriam Fellow and won the Baker Prize. His publications include Shifting Terrain (2006). Perusek was a journeyman member of the typographical union in Chicago.

Greg Raftery

Greg Raftery, is currently with the IUPAT Organizing Department and is Special Assistant to the IUPAT General President. His union organizing experience is extensive, working in positions such as International Director of Organizing; Regional Organizing Coordinator; Regional Director of Organizing; Lead Organizer; Staff Organizer and VOC Organizer. In addition to his organizing experience, Greg has worked as a local business representative as well as a trustee on various trust funds. Greg has been invited to sit on various political committees and was Labor-Lobbyist for Missouri and Illinois. Greg has a passion for teaching labor education/organizing and has developed a number of course curriculums over the years.

Richard Resnick

Richard Resnick, JD, was a shareholder at Sherman Dunn, P.C., a union-side law firm in Washington, D.C., until his retirement at the end of 2019. During his 44 years at the firm, Richard exclusively represented labor unions. He served as General Counsel of North America’s Building Trades Unions and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He also served as General Counsel of CPWR: The Center for Construction Research and Training, the Helmets to Hardhats program and the Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes in the Construction Industry.

Richard has been involved in complex litigation before the NLRB, DOL and the EEOC, and has argued cases in federal and state courts at both the trial and appellate levels and in arbitration proceedings across the country. He has extensive experience in negotiating collective bargaining agreements and project labor agreements, including for some of the largest employers and projects in the United States.

Carl Shaffer

Carl Shaffer, is a Journeyman Electrician and a 35-year member of IBEW Local 153 in South Bend, Indiana. Carl served the Local Union in a number of capacities, including Recording Secretary, Executive Board Member, Apprenticeship Trustee, Assistant Business Manager and Organizer.

Carl was then appointed to the position of Indiana Statewide Organizing Coordinator for the IBEW, training and mentoring Local Union organizers across the state. While in this capacity he testified concerning the organizing tactic commonly referred to as “salting” before a Joint Congressional Field Hearing held in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Carl moved on to become a Field Organizer for the Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL–CIO (NABTU) in support of the Building Trades National Temp Workers Campaign. Carl was subsequently appointed as the National Building Trades Organizing Director, supervising the organizing and strategic research staff, providing guidance and support for the local organizing efforts of approximately 300 Building Trades Councils throughout the United States and Canada, and serving as chair of the Building Trades' National Organizing Committee.

Carl received his Labor Studies education at Indiana University South Bend and participated as an Adjunct Faculty member at George Meany Center for Labor Studies (National Labor College) in Silver Spring, MD. Carl returned in 2019 to serve once again as Business Representative and Organizer for IBEW Local 153 until retiring in September of 2023.

Melissa Shetler

Melissa Shetler, began her official journey in the labor movement as a community organizer with the Laborers’ Eastern Region Organizing Fund and Greater New York Laborer-Employers' Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET), where she spent five years focused on affordable-housing legislative reforms and membership training and engagement. Melissa developed curriculum and facilitated organizing trainings for Laborers' locals throughout New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Melissa moved on to become the Director of Organizing and then Political Director for Local 46 Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers where she managed campaigns, coalition building, internal organizing programs, and multi-trade campaign coordination.

Melissa was a founding board member and the Executive Director of Pathways to Apprenticeship, a pre-apprenticeship program in New York City focused on supporting justice-involved individuals and public housing residents in accessing middle class union careers in the building and construction trades.

Melissa is a skilled facilitator who brings her knowledge of popular-education pedagogy to the classroom. Melissa has a master's degree in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia Teachers College. She is a Senior Training and Education Associate at the Climate Jobs Institute at Cornell, ILR. A lifelong jazz enthusiast, Melissa can be found at home in Brooklyn, NY singing standards to her twin toddlers.

Contact us

Dr. Julie L. Brockman
Associate Professor
School of Human Resources & Labor Relations
368 Farm Lane, Room S416
East Lansing, MI 48824

Tel: (517) 285-8670

Dr. Tom Kriger
Research and Education Director
North America's Building Trades Unions
815 16TH ST, NW, SUITE 600
Washington, D.C. 20006

Tel: (202) 756-4672