By CWA President Chris Shelton
The twin crises – health and economic – caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on our CWA family.
The sense of loss is, at times, overwhelming. We have lost friends, family members, colleagues, and leaders to COVID-19. Pandemic restrictions have prevented us from being with our loved ones in their final hours and we have not been able to come together to mourn and remember them. Nor have we been able to celebrate life’s milestones – graduations, weddings, birthdays, retirements – as we normally would.
CWA members are working on the frontlines of this crisis. You have been going to work every day to provide the essential services that are enabling our country and our communities to continue to function. You are doing this under difficult circumstances. The things that are necessary to help stop the spread of the virus like social distancing and wearing masks and other personal protective equipment also introduce new challenges to getting your work done.
In the midst of this, a series of brutal murders demonstrated the grim reality of racism in America. In response, we created dedicated spaces for open dialogue on race for our members and leaders. If we are to make progress, we must listen to the experiences and stories of Black CWA members, Black workers, and the Black community. We must join together – every one of us – to dismantle this system of oppression.
And then, there was the political upheaval. After a free and fair election, during which so many of you made phone calls, sent text messages, and spread the word about what was at stake for working people, the president of the United States refused to accept the outcome and allow a peaceful transition of power. At his request, a violent, white supremacist mob stormed the Capitol and attempted to prevent Congress from certifying the election results.
Through all of this you have remained strong and our union has remained strong.
Our new president, Joe Biden, is truly committed to ensuring that working people are not left behind as we recover from the pandemic. More than any other president in recent memory, he understands that in order to have jobs with family-supporting wages and good benefits, workers must be able to join together in unions to negotiate collective bargaining agreements.
But electing Joe Biden and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress was only the first step.
Now we must mobilize. Every CWA member, every union member, and every working person needs to hear about the PRO Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and every member of the House and Senate needs to know that their constituents expect them to pass these bills.
We must organize. Support for unions is at its highest level in decades, and millions of workers need training and support to bring union power to their workplaces.
We must bargain strong contracts. We cannot let employers use the pandemic as an excuse to erode our collective bargaining agreements.
To Build Back Better from this pandemic, we must rebuild the power of working people. It won’t be easy, even with a President cheering us on and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Corporate executives and their enablers have spent decades dismantling laws that protect workers and rigging the system in their favor. But now we have a fighting chance, and I know that whenever CWA members have a fair shot at winning they not only take it, but they lead the way for everyone else.