For more information, contact Jeff Miller or Candice Johnson, CWA, at the Navy Pier convention site, 312-595-5702 through 5706
Chicago -- CWA President Morton Bahr, who led the union for 20 years and through some of its most turbulent days, will retire during the union's 67th convention which opens today at Chicago's Navy Pier.
Bahr will swear in the union's new officers on Tuesday, Aug. 30, following nominations and elections on Monday. He will be named president emeritus.
Bahr is only CWA's third president since its founding in 1938. He won election as president in 1985, a year after the breakup of the AT&T Bell System which had employed a half million workers. Under his leadership, CWA created new bargaining and campaign strategies to deal with the fragmented and newly competitive industry.
Bahr also expanded CWA's organizing thrust into new areas, such as health care, the public sector and higher education to maintain union growth and strength and offset telecom job losses due to deregulation, globalization and explosive technological change. CWA also has expanded organizing in the emerging high tech job areas of telecommunications, including Internet-based data communications, Voice Over the Internet Protocol and wireless communications.
To help CWA members adapt to volatile changes in telecom and achieve career mobility and employment security, Bahr led CWA to negotiate groundbreaking education and training programs with the union's major employers. Other initiatives include the online CWA/NETT program, a partnership with Cisco Systems to provide certification and skill training in Internet technology, and a partnership with telecom employers and Pace University that has produced the first on-line degree program in telecommunications.
In his final keynote address, President Bahr warned that the next generation of workers is "facing a crisis of monumental proportions" because of the relentless assault of an ideological, anti-worker, anti-union administration. "The Bush administration and the right wing of the Republican Party are determined to repeal the values that flowed from the New Deal during FDR's presidency. And they are succeeding," he said.
He outlined changes to important measures like Family and Medical Leave, health and safety, federal labor law, even the 40-hour workweek, which the administration has pursued for its corporate supporters.
"While health care is in crisis, President Bush has made Social Security privatization the centerpiece of his second term, totally ignoring the 45 million Americans who have no health care insurance and the increasing pressure on retirees to pay for more of their health care," Bahr said.
"Although the American people have not bought into Bush's plan, the administration will not give up. They will continue to attack, and working people are the target," he said.
Bahr noted that the disaffiliation of three major unions from the AFL-CIO "could not have come at a worse time," as business interests see "new opportunities" to advance their interests in Congress.
He called on all CWA members and officers to make a personal commitment to organize and grow the union and outlined ongoing organizing work in other CWA sectors: high tech, airlines, television and print media, manufacturing, public service and more.
Bahr also emphasized the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act to enabling workers to have "the unfettered right to form a union free of employer threats and intimidation. "We now can prove what we already knew, that when you remove fear and intimidation from the workplace, workers will join the union."
Bahr announced that starting Wednesday, Aug. 31, "the first full day of my retirement, I will become a volunteer organizer, devoting my time to bring democracy to every Verizon Wireless workplace in the country."
Bahr's retirement plans also include service as a resident scholar at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. Continuing education has been a lifelong passion of Bahr, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton to head the Commission for a Nation of Lifelong Learners, which recommended an agenda for expanded adult education and training.
Bahr and his wife Florence live in Washington, D.C.
Bahr's full remarks will be available on ga.cwa-union.org/issues.