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CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. Addresses the 2024 CWA Legislative Conference


Good morning CWA Leaders, Delegates and Guests to the 2024 Legislative and Political Conference!

I am so glad to be with you here this morning.

It has been almost one year since I was elected President of CWA, which is a little hard for me to believe. Together we have accomplished so much since last summer. This is the Legislative-Political Conference, and I have a lot to say about the upcoming election, so I am not going to get into all the details right now. But I do want to say this: like I said at the Convention after I was elected last year, this isn’t about me. Our union, our great union, is about all of us coming together to make a difference each and every day.

We are so fortunate to have the most talented leadership team in the labor movement, starting with Secretary-Treasurer Ameenah Salaam. Ameenah spends every minute of every day making sure that our members’ dues are being used in the most efficient, effective way possible to build our power and strengthen our union. I know some of you were able to see her financial presentation yesterday and learn about all of the cost savings she has identified - over $1 millon! Thank you Ameenah.

Would the other Executive Board members who are here today please stand up to be acknowledged? Thank you all so much for your dedication to our members and our fight.

I want to recognize, and thank, my Chief of Staff, Sylvia J. Ramos. She’s been my right hand for over a decade. Having her by my side has made my transition into this job nearly seamless. She has played a critical role in my meetings with AT&T to protect retiree pensions and jobs.

We also have an incredible group of staff in our districts and sectors and at headquarters. I frequently worked with the headquarters staff while I was Vice President of District 6, but over the past year I have really gotten to know them and let me tell you, they never let up! Their experience and guidance have been invaluable to me this year.

I know we have some retirees here - the Retired Members Council Board met earlier this week and let me tell you they are doing a great job. Our retirees built our union and we must continue to fight for them! Would the members of the RMC and all of the other retirees who are here today please stand and be recognized?

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge any and all military, currently serving or veterans, we have in the audience. If you’re a member of our military please stand. Let’s give a round of applause for these brave members of our military and the service they provide in keeping us all safe. We owe you all a debt for your sacrifices.

Another thing I talked about after I was elected last year was trust and transparency. I realize we will disagree at times, but I will always, always be honest with you about where I stand and why. Our country is polarized today in ways we have never seen before. It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to talk to each other about our differences. Instead of trying to find common ground, we retreat to our separate corners, itching for a fight. Unfortunately, that happens in our union too.

So I am asking you this morning to please hear me out. If you disagree with me, fine, I am happy to have a conversation and hear your point of view. As long as we can have a respectful dialog.

I’ve been traveling around the country a lot this past year, talking with CWA members and retirees at conferences and at their worksites. One of the things I am talking about is how important it is, how absolutely necessary it is, to re-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And the people that don’t like that often say that they don’t listen to the union when it comes to elections because CWA is in the pocket of the Democratic Party.

That’s simply not true. Our union has supported both Democrats and Republicans. Party politics doesn’t matter. Whether you’re red or blue is beside the point. The only question that matters to me is: are you with us, the workers, or not. Plain and simple. I’m going to look at every candidate’s record and see whether they have stood with us. And if they won’t stand with us, then we won’t stand with them. Our endorsements and our support will go to the best candidate for union members each and every time, regardless of their party.

We have never had a perfect President. CWA has disagreed on many decisions Presidents have made – President Clinton on NAFTA, President Obama on the TransP-acific Partnership – and we have not been silent about our disagreements. We fought hard to defeat those agreements. Many Democratic candidates have run for office who didn’t do a damn thing for us - did not co-sponsor important bills, did not show up to picket lines. So when they come asking for our endorsement and our PAF money, we tell them no! At times, we even launch primary challenges against them.

We haven’t been silent when we have disagreed with President Biden and we don’t hesitate to push him for more. But the truth is what President Biden has done to support and strengthen the labor movement far exceeds what any other President has ever done. We are able to push for more because he has welcomed us into the conversation. And he has made sure that LABOR has a seat at the table! He has earned our endorsement, trust and our respect.

Like many of you, I have been reading stories about the election for months. I’ve been looking at the polls. A few things stand out for me.

First, people just don’t know what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have accomplished. They don’t give the Biden Administration credit for the positive improvements they have continuously made for working people, and they blame the administration for decisions that Trump’s Supreme Court justices made to restrict reproductive freedom or the corporate greed that has been driving up the prices of basic necessities.

The list of the Biden Administration's accomplishments - particularly for union members and working people - is long. In your Conference packet you have a booklet called Winning with Biden that lists a lot of them. I’m not going to stand up here and read it to you. The bottom line is that Joe Biden pledged to have a pro-union administration and he has delivered on that promise!

The investments that Joe Biden has made in broadband infrastructure, semiconductor manufacturing, and green transportation and energy will revitalize our communities and create jobs. Union jobs. He’s making sure of it. Just last month, his announcement of funding for an enormous microchip manufacturing facility specifically said that the company, Micron, would sit down with CWA to discuss labor peace. Not just any union. C.W.A. Why? Because he listens and he respects what we stand for and what we can accomplish as a union.

During the height of the COVID crisis he provided financial support to prevent layoffs and help keep hundreds of thousands of state and local employees, flight attendants and passenger service agents on the job.

And the things he has done for our retirees! Thanks to the Biden Administration, Medicare can now directly negotiate to lower the price of prescription drugs, something that we and our allies have been pushing for for decades. Several Presidents have tried to make this happen. Even Trump promised he would do it. But it was Joe Biden who got it done.

And this is one that I really don’t think many people are aware of, even though it is huge. Through the American Rescue Plan, Joe Biden has made sure that multi-employer pension plans can continue to cover full benefits for the retirees that have earned them. These plans are often in crisis due to factors beyond the plan’s control.

A lot of CWA members and retirees are covered by those plans - including IUE-CWA and the NewsGuild-CWA. And just two weeks ago, the federal government announced it was stepping in to save the pensions of over 24,000 CWA members who are covered by the ITU Pension Plan. Without this grant, the plan was projected to become insolvent by 2029.

He's the only sitting president to have joined a picket line with striking workers. He has welcomed us into the White House to talk with his senior advisors about issues we are facing on the job and how the federal government can support the creation of good union jobs and ensure that technologies such as AI are used responsibly, and not to surveil and replace us, but to improve our work place . Joe Biden and the people he has appointed see us as partners, not props. They have gotten to know us and we have gotten to know them. When we call, they answer.

You don’t have to take it from me. I have something to share with you this morning, a new video that we put together called “A Seat at the Table.”


Isn’t that great? Every single person in that video - including the voiceover - is a CWA member. It is going to go live on our social media accounts later today, and we will text out a link to all of you so you can share it.

There’s one thing about Joe Biden’s record that I want to address. Sometimes, even after I’ve laid out all of his accomplishments, someone will say, “Well, that’s fine, but what about the railroad workers? He blocked them from going out on strike over paid sick leave.” And it’s true, Congress passed a bill imposing a tentative agreement on the railroad workers, and Joe Biden signed it.

But no one remembers the rest of the story. When he blocked the strike he promised to continue to work to resolve the paid leave issue. He worked with the unions to keep the pressure up on the companies. And a few months later, the workers reached an agreement on paid leave with the railroads. Because Joe Biden kept his word. Again - HE KEPT HIS WORD!

So remember that. Remember that. When you are talking to someone about voting for Joe Biden and they bring up the railroad strike, tell them the rest of the story.

The second thing that stands out to me about the polls and the stories about the election is the number of people - especially young people and people of color - who say they aren’t going to vote or who are going to vote for a third party candidate. They don’t necessarily like Donald Trump or what he stands for, but they are not motivated to vote for Joe Biden.

This election is going to be close, very close. We all know the story from the past several election cycles - this race is going to depend on a few thousand votes in a handful of states. I am concerned we are going to have a repeat of what happened in 2000 when voters who were unenthusiastic about Al Gore voted instead for third party candidate Ralph Nader. Think about how different the world might be today if just 600 more voters in Florida had voted for Al Gore.

That is why our work is so important!! Every single vote will matter!!

Now, we know that the most effective way to reach voters is through face to face conversation. Not TV or social media ads, not mailers or phone calls - although those have their place. The most effective thing going is face to face conversation and no groups are more well-positioned to have real conversations than unions. It’s our superpower. Every election cycle we do this, through workplace engagement and door-to-door labor walks. We have the ability to make the difference this November. The labor movement can connect with voters, register voters, and turn out voters in a way no other institution can.

And we know that our members listen to us, particularly when it comes to economic issues. The number one thing that people are concerned about in this election is the rising cost of living. We need to tell them about the things that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have done and plan to do to help working people make ends meet.

We need to tell them that Joe Biden is reducing the cost of prescription drugs!

We need to tell them that Joe Biden will protect Social Security and our retirement benefits!

We need to tell them that Joe Biden wants to make sure that large corporations are paying their fair share of taxes!

We need to tell them that Joe Biden is creating good jobs by investing in our communities!

Our choice here is clear! It is clear! I can’t understand how some union presidents can pander to a candidate that wants to be a dictator. We saw the damage Trump did to all workers while he was President. And we have seen over and over again that when people get involved with him he demands total loyalty. Union presidents first and foremost must be loyal to their members and to working people, not to parties or politicians. That’s what I have done and that’s what I will continue to do.

I’ve talked a lot so far about the Presidential election. And make no mistake, we must re-elect Joe Biden. We also have to ensure that there are pro-worker majorities in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Joe Biden was able to move his agenda during the first two years of his presidency - to pass the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act - because he had the majority in the Senate and the House. His hands have been a bit tied since then, although he and his Administration are doing everything they can with the tools available to them.

So we are looking to our members in Ohio to re-elect Sherrod Brown, one of the best friends our members have in the Senate. He is in a tough, tough race, maybe one of the toughest in the country, but with our help he can win!

Arizona, we need you to elect Ruben Gallego. He is a true champion for working people, unlike his predecessor who almost single-handedly blocked the PRO Act and increases to the minimum wage.

In Pennsylvania we’ve got to keep Bob Casey in the Senate. Year in and year out, Senator Casey has been a champion for our call center workers.

We have an open seat in Michigan, and need someone who can fill the shoes of Debbie Stabenow.

Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin has been passionate about reigning in corporate stock buybacks, making the big banks accountable to customers and workers, and strengthening Buy American laws. Her likely opponent is a multi-millionaire banking executive.

In Nevada, Jacky Rosen is fighting for her Senate seat. Senator Rosen was critical to making sure we had high labor standards for broadband in the infrastructure bill to make sure that it creates good union jobs.

And in Texas and Florida, we have the chance to send Ted Cruz and Rick Scott, two of the most terrible, anti-union, corrupt Senators back home and replace them with Senators who will have our back.

We’re going to have postcard signing here for Angela Alsobrooks, who is running for the open Senate seat in Maryland. Maryland is a tricky state. We think of it as a blue state, but she’s running against a very popular Republican former Governor so it’s on our watch list.

And we have House races all across the country. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is going to be here tomorrow. We need to make sure that, come January, he is Speaker of the House. There is no excuse for any of our members not to be involved. I know you are here because you get it. Your job is to make sure that other people get it too.

I keep a slip of paper from the so-called “good old days.” The days some people want to go back to. It’s my father’s poll tax receipt, right up there on the screen. Some of you may never have seen an actual receipt but, in those same “good old days” Black people who wanted to exercise that most basic right had to pay $1.50 in 1946 to be able to vote. I keep this as a reminder of where we’ve been and where we can never go back to again. The right to vote is precious, and has been paid for in blood. And it is inexcusable that anyone would ever just throw it away, especially when there is as much at stake as there is in this election.

receipt showing payment of poll tax


We need to turn out and we need to vote. Women, your time is now! We need your voices and your votes. Young people, your time is now! Your future is on the line. Talk to your friends and your co-workers. If they aren’t registered to vote, get them connected. Make sure they get a ballot and make sure they vote! Black and brown members, make it your mission to motivate voters! Don’t wait until September or October, that’s too late. We have to start now. Retirees, you could be the ones to save this election! Retired folks and folks over 60 are sticking with the President and they are reliable voters. Let’s get our retirees involved. I know they want to help, you just need to reach out to them.

I can go on but the bottom line is this, we have a clear choice this coming November. One man stands to defend democracy and the institutions we hold dear, including our union. The other spent four years dismantling those same institutions and has vowed to finish the job if elected for a second term. I can’t have that and neither can you. No matter what anyone promises, I’m looking at their track record and Joe Biden’s the clear winner when it comes to the work he’s done for us and with us.

We, as a union and as a nation, need to be looking forward to a brighter future our children will inherit. That future doesn’t arrive packaged neatly with a bow on top. It’s the result of the struggles and victories we create today. I’m not interested in going back. SAY IT WITH ME, WE’RE NOT GOING BACK! There’s no time in the past I can think of that is better than the promise of what we have in our future.

So, I know this is going to be a great conference. You are going to hear from some really terrific elected leaders and you are going to hear from CWA members who have benefited from Joe Biden’s policies. Listen closely to their stories so you can share them when you get back home.

You know, there’s an old song that I love, called “We Are One” by Frankie Beverly and Maze. Great song. I got to hear them perform it recently and the lyrics really hit home.

Can't understand
Why we treat each other in this way
Taking up time
With the silly silly games we play
We've got our love
And no matter how it's said or done
We are one
No matter what we do
We are one
Love will see us through

They’re talking about love, but those lyrics make me think about our union. Our union is what will see us through, every time. But too often we fight among ourselves, distrusting each other based on where we work or our job titles! That’s the boss’s game. They want to see us divided. That’s just the truth.

But what I need to know right now is this. Are you ready to put aside your differences and work side by side to win this election? Let me know, are you ready to do that?

If so say it with me.

Say it with me, We are One!

We will protect our democracy!

We will protect our union!

We will protect future generations!

One union, one fight!

We don’t play at CWA!

Thank you!