Labor Union Business Agents
Since union business agents represent the workers in a labor union, they are employed by the various craft and industrial unions, normally representing a particular group of workers. There are active unions in nearly every line of work.
Almost all union business agents first work for a number of years in their respective industries and work their way up from the inside. Each type of industry has its own requirements for joining, such as previous experience, training, and apprenticeships. Once a member of a union, workers can seek out opportunities to become involved in union matters, such as serving on committees. Through efforts and dedication to the union's cause, workers attract the attention of union leadership, who may encourage them to run for a local union job in the next election. Initially, prospective agents are usually elected or appointed to the position of shop steward, who is responsible for communicating the members' wishes to the business agent. If popular and effective, the steward may then run for election as union business agent. The process of electing or selecting representatives varies from union to union, but an agent usually serves a term of about three years.
A labor union business agent is in many ways like a politician. In the same ways that politicians can work their way from local to state government and possibly to Washington, D.C., union business agents can move upward in the ranks of leadership. If business agents do their jobs well, gain respect, and maintain high profiles, they may advance to positions at the council headquarters or at regional union offices. An experienced agent can even advance to represent the union at the international level.
Tips for Entry
Conduct information interviews with labor union business agents and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.
Use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on union-related issues, network, and learn about job openings.
Work your way up to the position of union business agent by first becoming a union apprentice, then a journeyman, and finally a union steward.