President Cohen: 'If Not Now, When?'

CWA President Larry Cohen challenged convention delegates to build a robust movement for democracy and economic justice.

“Some may say this is too big a reach for our members,” he said. “But this Executive Board and so many of you are saying, ‘If not now, when?’ If we don’t build a much deeper movement now, when? If we don’t fight for universal voter registration and against voter suppression now, when? If we don’t demand that Democrats confirm an NLRB with a democratic majority that will make decisions that support us now, when? If we don’t stand up for retiree health care, not just in our own union but across the nation, now, when? This is our time to take up this challenge.”

Cohen said in the 75-year history of the union, “our survival has never been harder.” State governments are attacking bargaining rights. Members are faced now with the worst trade agreement ever, the Trans Pacific Partnership, despite a democratic White House. Across the country, workers are struggling to join CWA and to even have the ability to negotiate with their employer.

“Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not hopeless,” he said.

Cohen pointed out that CWA has celebrated a number of organizing wins. The union welcomed 9,300 flight attendants from United-Continental. CWA ratified contracts for over 100,000 at AT&T, 38,000 at Verizon, 10,000 at GE, 750 nurses at Mercy hospital and 750 journalists at Bloomberg’s Bureau of National Affairs.

“Our bargaining committee members have become heroes. When elected, no one knows how long they will be there – except one day longer than our employers’ resistance,” he said.

There are two key elements of our union’s strategy moving forward, Cohen explained.

First, we must act different politically. We must challenge candidates who aren’t with us and advocate for candidates who stand with us and for change.

“We need a new progressive Tea Party, not just more Democrats,” he said.

Second, we must build a movement of 50 million progressives in our workplaces, locals and communities. This coalition will be what it takes to enact the changes we need and shake up the status quo. Recently CWA has formed alliances with the NAACP, Sierra Club, Common Cause and more. Now it’s time to reach out to more progressive groups and start working together.

“It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. It’s likely a 10 year effort because the challenges we face are monumental, but they are not impossible,” he said. “This is where the choices each of you make and what you do matter.”

Read his entire speech here: