School of Continuing and Professional Studies > About > Labor Education Center
The roots of what is now the DePaul University Labor Education Center go back to 1948. Since that time, we have served as a resource for students, labor activists, academics and community leaders seeking a deeper understanding of labor issues and tools to gain economic justice for poor and working-class peoples. At our center, we challenge each other to consider #WhatElseMustBeDone to promote a transformational labor movement. Guided by this mission, we build the capacity of unions, worker centers, and community-based organizations through adult and youth labor education, trainings, public events, awareness building, consultations, resource sharing, and research.
For more information on our programs, on ways to get involved, or to support our work, please contact us at
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Building on students’ existing knowledge and skills, the center provides in person and online classes and trainings led by highly trained instructors with real world labor and organizing experience. We strive to help labor movement activists, members, stewards, officers and staff improve their skills and prepare them to take on new levels of leadership.
Labor Leadership Certificate Program
Through progressive coursework, our six-course "Labor Leadership Certificate" program develops the skills and leadership abilities of activists, student leaders, members, stewards, officers, and staff from unions, worker centers, and community-based organizations. Each course helps students gain a deeper understanding of labor issues and build skills to achieve economic and social justice. Students leave this program with more knowledge and tools to engage in enforcement of contractual and labor law, effective organizational communication tools (visual, written, verbal, and social media based), arbitration, organizing, bargaining practices and strategies, and a knowledge of labor history and political economy. Completion of our Certificate indicates you have essential training to fulfill your roles more effectively and to better support your fellow peers, members and co-workers while you strengthen your respective organizations. It also certifies that you are equipped to move into higher levels of leadership or employment in your union, worker center, or community-based organizations. Please note: Each of the six Labor Education courses can be taken individually or all together to earn the Certificate. The following classes are held during weekly sessions in the fall from September through November, and in the winter from January through March:
Learn more or enroll here.
We work with unions, worker centers, and community-based organizations to provide tailored trainings to fit their needs. Such workshops have included but are not limited to providing an introduction to the labor movement, labor history, stewardship and grievance handling, addressing sexual harassment and racial discrimination, internal and external organizing, campaign mobilization, labor-community partnership, research skills, public speaking, labor law, contemporary labor issues, contract administration, labor-management relations and organizational solidarity building, as well as in depth trainings on any of the topics from our Labor Leadership Certificate Program classes. These workshops can be held at our office, your office, or virtually.
To foster a multi-generational labor movement, we provide multiple youth programs aimed at developing pipelines for youth involvement and leadership development.
Regina V. Polk High School Program The Center’s Regina V. Polk High School Program provides labor education curriculum to more than a thousand Illinois high school students annually. This program is run in celebration of the late Regina V. Polk and thanks to the generous support of the Regina V. Polk Scholarship Fund for Labor Leadership. Regina’s life was sadly cut short in 1983 when she was killed in a plane crash at the age of 33. We pay tribute to Regina’s trailblazing work – from organizing and supporting displaced workers, to efforts to expand opportunities for women in the labor movement – by educating and seeking to inspire a new generation of labor leaders. The program includes:
Breving-Rosenberg High School Summer Internship ProgramOur Center offers paid internships for high school students in coordination with local union and worker center campaigns. Youth that actively participated in our Union Summer School are invited to apply the following summer. Our internship trains participants on social justice and labor issues, and places them with local unions, worker centers, and community-based organizations in the Chicagoland area to get hands on organizing experience. They are provided with an orientation and weekly cohort meetings focused on helping them learn about the labor movement, social justice, and understand their role in strengthening rights for all workers.
2021 College Fellowship for Worker Justice
Our College Fellowship for Worker Justice is a labor leadership training and mentorship series for a cohort of ten DePaul students who are currently or have recently been employed. It aims to educate and engage young workers about the labor movement, their rights, and leadership skills to help them stand up for such rights. It also seeks to serve as a pipeline for youth involvement and leadership development in the labor movement. Comprising about 20 hours of commitment per month, Fellows will participate in monthly live virtual trainings from January through May and be responsible to complete additional readings and assignments. The training topics will include the following topics: Labor History and Lessons for today, Introduction to Workers Rights, Building power for workers, Leadership in your workplace, and Growing your Leadership Long Term. The trainings will also incorporate guest speakers as well as instruction on digital tools used in organizing campaigns. Upon completion of the Fellowship, with full attendance to the trainings and all assignments turned in, Fellows will receive a $500 stipend. They will also be invited to participate in ongoing meetings with Center staff for mentorship, access to resources, and updates on career opportunities in the labor movement.
To apply visit tinyurl.com/LECfellowship by December 2, 2020. BIPOC, women, and those with at least a year of experience working or volunteering with social justice related organizations are strongly encouraged to apply.
Our center also conducts public in person and online programming to promote a broader understanding about the labor movement and issues affecting poor and working-class peoples. We offer regular educational events, workshops, and webinars for students, community members, and labor leaders throughout the year to facilitate learning, open discussions, and new initiatives.
In addition, our center provides strategic consultations for those seeking support in organizing, capacity building, and other needs. We also strive to be a clearinghouse of information, contacts, and resources regarding labor issues. Finally, we conduct scholarly independent and collaborative research with unions, worker centers, and community-based organizations on labor market and movement trends, labor rights, campaign, policy, and member-focused projects. We are trained in qualitative, quantitative, survey, historical, and analytical research methods, and are also part of the Labor Research and Action Network (LRAN) which connects with researchers across the country.
Jessica Cook-Qurayshi began her work with the Center as the Lead Instructor in January 2016 and became the Director of the Center in August 2016. Jessica joined the labor movement as a staff organizer and staff union steward at the UNITE HERE international from 2006-2009. She then spent 7 years as a leader and steward with the Graduate Employees Organization (IFT-AFT Local 6297) while working as an instructor in Sociology at UIC, where she earned her PhD. She has also worked closely as a volunteer and researcher with multiple Chicago based worker centers since 2010. Jessica has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her doctoral research focused on the labor movement, worker centers, mass incarceration and criminalization, immigration, citizenship, race and ethnicity, civil society, precarious work, and labor market restructuring. Email Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Espinoza joined the Center in the fall of 2019 as the new Associate Director. Her journey in labor started off as a union state employee while earning her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science from Portland State University. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she spent the next decade working for various unions organizing workers across a variety of industries including state sector, healthcare, janitorial, as well as communications. Supplementing her union staff experience, Jessica has volunteered over the years with various labor education organizations focused on building & developing leadership among rank and file community and labor organizations. She is also currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Labor Studies at UMass Amherst. Email Jessica at email@example.com.
Makayla Jackson joined the Center as a Student Worker in September 2020. She was born and raised on Chicago’s South side. She has been involved in “Teen REACH,” a youth educational mentoring program, since she was 14 years old until this past June 2020. She is a junior at DePaul University majoring in Psychology and minoring in African and Black Diaspora Studies. She is also a DePaul Leadership Scholar in which she gets training on Socially Responsible Leadership and participates in community engagement and service following the Vincentian tradition. Throughout her years, she has tried to spread awareness on issues affecting the Black community and let people, especially youth, know that they have a voice. Email Makayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Advisory Committee is comprised of former students and labor leaders who support the Center’s programming. These are the committee’s current members.
View our 2021 Annual June Fundraiser event here and read our ad book here!
In recognition of organizations that go above and beyond in supporting the work of our Center, we are pleased to offer the following levels of sponsorship. Please contact us at LEC@depaul.edu so we can identify which sponsorship level works best for your organization. We thank our sponsors for their ongoing commitment to promoting a transformational labor movement!
For more information on our programs, ways to get involved or support our work, or to be informed of upcoming events, please contact us at LEC@depaul.edu. You can also follow us on social media: