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The State of OUR Union is STRONG

Chris SheltonBy CWA President Chris Shelton

A few weeks ago, I announced that I will not seek re-election as President of CWA at our Convention in July. It was a tough decision. I have always made our union my first priority, but my family needs me and it is time for me to be 100% there for them.

In my first CWA News column, in 2015, I wrote:

[At one time] our country would be thanking workers who are on the job, working to keep families and communities connected, informed, entertained, cared for, safe, in good health, and much more. Instead, too many right-wing elected officials and extremists are attacking workers and unions, holding them in contempt. How did working people become the villains?

Little did I know what the next few years would bring.

The right-wing attacks have not stopped; in fact, they have intensified and extended to an attack on the very foundations of our democracy. Since 2015, we have seen a Supreme Court eager to crush public sector unions, give corporations even more power over our lives, and strip women of their right to make decisions about their own reproductive health. We have seen the election of a President who stocked his administration with anti-union zealots, fanned the flames of racism and all forms of prejudice, and prompted an insurrectionist mob to attack our nation’s capitol.

At the same time, something has changed. Most Americans no longer see working people and our unions as villains. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, support for unions and interest in taking collective action to improve working conditions was beginning to grow. Once the pandemic hit, that support skyrocketed, and the working people who put their lives at risk to keep our country functioning, many of them CWA members, were rightly hailed as heroes.

I am proud to say that we were ready to meet the moment. At the first convention after I was elected President, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens and I rolled out our CWA STRONG program. CWA STRONG was a challenge to all of you to build workplace power, strengthen bargaining, and resist outside efforts to destroy our union.reinforce the power and strength of our unity and solidarity so we would be prepared for the challenges ahead. In subsequent years, convention delegates took action to make full use of our resources to put our union on stronger financial footing.

Brothers and sisters, my union siblings, those challenges were larger than we could have imagined but thanks to your commitment, and the remarkable leadership of our Executive Board and local officers, we not only survived, we laid the foundation for a strong future.

Make no mistake, we still face many challenges. The right-wing attacks continue. Outsourcing, offshoring, and a corporate culture that is driven by Wall Street profits instead of investment in working people and our communities threaten our jobs and our hard won benefits.

Thanks to those of you who serve as stewards, bargaining committee members, and local leaders, who organize to help new workers join CWA, who make phone calls, send text messages, and knock on doors during election season, who write to your elected officials and show up at state capitols and city council meetings to make your voices heard, the state of OUR union is strong. CWA STRONG. I am confident that I am leaving the union I love in good hands.

I am stepping down as President, but rest assured that I am not stepping away. I will be fighting right alongside you, as I have from my first day of work at New York Telephone over 50 years ago when I joined our great union. Because when we fight, we win.