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The AFL-CIO featured TNG-CWA Local 34071 Member Grace Catania as part of its yearly Women’s History Month celebration this month honoring women leaders who are making history across the labor movement. She is an immigrant and moved to the United States at age 20, moments before martial law was imposed in response to the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Having arrived in the United States with no connections except an older uncle, Catania had to make her own way. She studied English and landed a union job as a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
In 1994, she began a career as a per diem court interpreter while continuing to work in retail. She and her peers worked against classification as contractors and were finally recognized as employees when they won union recognition with the Chicago Newspaper Guild Local 34071 in 2004. Soon after, the union successfully bargained a first contract and better working conditions.
Since then, Catania has served as interpreters’ unit steward, unit chair, and contract bargaining team member. She became active in her local and rose through the ranks to become the president. She also has served as a member and chair of the CWA National Women’s Committee. In addition, she was part of the Illinois Legislative Political Action Team and lobbied at the state and national levels. She has participated in many marches and actions, and actively supported other units in the local. Catania is proud of her three children and seven grandchildren, and lives in the suburbs of Chicago.