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By CWA President Chris Shelton
I've been a member of CWA since I went to work for the New York Telephone Company over 50 years ago. Nothing in my experience compares with what we have gone through over the last two years: extreme weather, the COVID-19 pandemic, racist murders and attacks, a violent insurrection at our nation's Capitol, and so much more.
These events have had a profound impact on all of us. I am proud of the way our union family has stepped up to meet these challenges. You have made incredible sacrifices. Many of you have lost family members, friends, and co-workers to COVID-19. My heart and my prayers go out to all of you.
Our union gives us strength to weather the hard times. Together we are able to fight for our health and safety on the job, for family-supporting wages and benefits, and to make sure our communities have what they need. In November, 2,000 CWA healthcare workers at Catholic Health in Buffalo conducted a powerful, five-week strike, winning a contract that not only provides wage increases but also includes a historic breakthrough in staffing ratios that improves quality of care for patients. CWA Broadband Brigade members are educating the public and policy makers about the best way to provide affordable, reliable broadband for all Americans while also creating good union jobs.
It is our obligation to help every worker who wants to join our great union become a member. Today, only about 16 million workers in the U.S. are represented by a union, but a 2018 study found that 48% of nonunion workers - 58 million workers - would join a union if they could.
CWA members are part of a wave of worker mobilization and organizing that is sweeping the country. In the midst of the challenges of the past two years, we have been able to help nearly 15,000 new members join CWA, at workplaces large and small. That's a lot - the most in any two-year period since American Airlines passenger service workers organized to join CWA in 2014.
The flames of unionism are igniting. Our job is to fan those flames until they become a full-blown organizing wildfire.
To do this we must dedicate resources to support worker organizing. CWA already has one of the strongest organizing programs in the U.S. labor movement, and our member-led organizing model is second to none. Last October, CWA Convention delegates passed the Support Members and Rebuild Together (SMART) resolution. This resolution allocates a portion of our existing Strategic Industry Funds toward hiring new CWA staff representatives and organizing coordinators. It increases our capacity to serve members and build out power without raising dues.
We must also update our outdated labor laws by passing the PRO Act in its entirety. Electing Joe Biden and a Democratic, pro-worker majority in the House and Senate in 2020 laid the groundwork for doing that. But filibuster rules mean that to get most legislation passed in the Senate you need a supermajority. The PRO Act has strong public support from voters across the political spectrum, but no Republican Senators have co-sponsored the bill. This fall, we need to reelect pro-worker Democrats and add new Senators to the majority who are ready to get rid of the filibuster and pass the PRO Act.
Finally, each CWA member and retiree must become a mobilizer and an organizer. Speak up about what being a union member means to you. When friends, family members, and neighbors express interest in improving their working conditions, connect them with an organizer at your local or tell them to reach out on CWA's national website at CWA.org/join.