Communications Workers Board To Locals: Prepare For More Responsibilities

PITTSBURGH —The Communications Workers (CWA) executive board is telling its locals to prepare to take on more responsibilities, as a shifting emphasis by the national union, combined with declining dues, must result in a change of duties.

The board posted its statement on the union’s convention website as delegates met in Pittsburgh April 24-26. Also posted: The shifting emphasis to national campaigns, the declining dues forecast and a plan for unified bargaining in the telecom sector, which now accounts for just under half of the union’s total membership.

The convention came as the union faces continuing problems in bargaining with the big telecom firms, notably Verizon, and as CWA President Larry Cohen expands the union’s pro-democracy campaign.

That drive has now attracted more than 50 other groups nationwide. The board said the international union would concentrate more on such wide-ranging campaigns.

“Locals recognized the roles played by CWA staff will need to change over time to adapt to additional demands in political mobilization and movement building,” the CWA board said. “Many leaders also saw the need for additional training both for themselves and for staff in areas which will become more important as we build our power through coalitions with other progressive organizations.

“Different kinds of services are required to support the wide variety of bargaining units represented by CWA locals. Some leaders note their locals already handle all grievances, arbitrations and bargaining for at least some units they represent. Others expressed a willingness to take on additional responsibilities for smaller units.

“The (union’s) executive board will continue to develop ideas which will encourage locals to take on additional duties that they have, in the past, relied on staff to perform,” it concluded.

In convention business, the CWA board also recommended no dues increase by the parent union and merging the defense fund, now used to support unionists forced to strike, with the strategic industries fund, which supports innovative organizing initiatives.
The combined fund would then be split seven ways, representing union sectors: Media, Telecom, Manufacturing, Passenger Service, Public/Health Care, Public Workers Without The Right To Strike, and the Association of Flight Attendants. Funds will be apportioned to the seven sectors based on membership.

Protests from The Newspaper Guild and other sectors led the board to dump a proposal forcing locals with fewer than 100 members to merge into larger locals.