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CWA Mourns District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen

July 26, 2012

Seth Rosen was first elected and sworn in as District 4 vice president in 2005.


CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen tragically drowned last Friday while vacationing in North Carolina. He was 55.

Rosen died hours after negotiating a tentative agreement for 15,000 CWA members at AT&T Midwest, and District 4's bargaining team worked all night to wrap up the settlement that provides for wage increases, improvements in employment security and retiree protection. The bargaining committee was determined to finalize a fair agreement to honor Rosen and his lifetime of work on behalf of CWA members.

"Seth was a giant in our movement, the deeply loved vice-president of District 4 for the last seven years, a member there for thirty or more years." CWA President Larry Cohen wrote in a letter to members. "But every day for him was like he was still a steward in 4309 — service, leadership, commitment, a volunteer. For decades, no matter his position, he did everything we do in CWA — phenomenal organizing, breakthrough political and community work, and, through his last day, negotiations and representation."

Rosen's passion to help workers gain a voice on the job could been seen not only at CWA, but also in his work with Stand Up For Ohio, Jobs with Justice and Policy Matters Ohio. As news of his death spread, hundreds of friends, supporters and allies flooded Facebook with stories of him rocking the bullhorn at rallies, leading jam sessions and mentoring young union leaders.

"He knew how to size up your heart and mind and then grab hold of it in the service of our shared vision for a just world," wrote SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

"Seth valued people in a way that few do," wrote Kirk Noden, executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. "He didn't need a fancy system to tell him that the most important thing in front of him was the people around him — the workers he represented, the staff he supervised, his labor colleagues, his family, his band, down to the person he'd meet in a crowd. He was on time and he was present for every conversation because he deeply cared about us. There was nothing more important than you when you were with Seth. They say that good organizers believe in people...Seth believed in us and he loved us."

"Seth Rosen was a steadfast advocate for social and economic justice and a tireless voice for workers," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "His advocacy helped thousands of Americans secure fair pay and benefits for their hard work and his collaborative abilities helped strengthen the labor movement."

At this year's CWA legislative political conference, Rosen told attendees, "We just don't get attacked, we fight back."

Rosen himself was a scrappy guy who spent his entire career fighting for workers' rights.

In 2005, Rosen was elected vice president of District 4, representing 50,000 members in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin — battlegrounds for the most brutal attacks on workers' rights. Though his leadership, progressives were able to defeat Ohio's infamous Senate Bill 5, which limited collective bargaining. He played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of campaigns and keeping unity in both Ohio and Wisconsin — yet much of his work is uncredited, as it went on quietly behind the scenes through countless face-to-face meetings and phone calls, said friends. He was a risk taker who never wavered in the fight to build a new movement for good jobs and strong communities.

"We couldn't have been better positioned to have a guy like Seth lead CWA at the onset of these attacks," said Jeff Rechenbach, who preceded Rosen as District 4's vice president.

Rosen was a "Renaissance man, great musician, brilliant strategist, political savant" who could have done anything he set his mind to, Rechenbach added. "Fortunate for the labor movement, he set his mind to promoting the cause of workers' rights."

Prior to becoming vice president, he served as administrative director to Rechenbach, coordinating the union's organizing, mobilization and Jobs with Justice program in his district. More than 14,000 workers in new units were organized during the fifteen years that Rosen coordinated the District 4 organizing program.

Rosen helped form the Cleveland Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board in 1993 and the National Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board in 2004.

He chaired the CWA Executive Board Committee on Organizing, as well as the board of directors of Policy Matters Ohio. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland appointed him to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council, where Rosen served from 2007 to 2010.

Before joining CWA's international staff in 1989, Rosen was an officer, chief steward and steward of CWA Local 4309, while employed by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.

A musician, Rosen played guitar and mandolin with the Sethro Quartet and Gene's Jazz Hot. Cleveland's Barking Spider Tavern hosted a "musicians' memorial" in his honor Tuesday night.

All of CWA join his wife Kathi, daughter Amanda and son Josh in mourning the loss of a great union leader and a great man. CWA has established the Seth Rosen Organizing Fund, which will be reserved for purposes greater than those we otherwise fund, at workplaces and in our communities. Any local or individual wishing to donate can send a check payable to the Seth Rosen Organizing Fund, c/o CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, 501 Third Street, NW, Washington D.C. 20001.