CWA has a proud history as a democratic union dedicated to the principle that true democracy requires active participation from all voices among our diverse membership. CWA created the Minority Leadership Institute (MLI) in 1983 to assist in reaching this goal.
When the MLI was created thirty years ago, female workers and people of color constituted a large percentage of our union. However, the top leaders were predominantly white and male. Recognition of this inconsistency within the union—coupled with discriminatory hiring practices by CWA-represented employers—fueled the idea of creating a leadership program for rising leaders of color.
The CWA Minority Caucus led the push for greater education and training opportunities. The Minority Caucus built upon the principles established by the CWA Black Caucus and the National Black Communication Coalition (NBCC) to end racism and sexism.
Early advocates of the MLI pressed for skills training that included six weeks of classes at the former George Meany Center. Participants in the program studied bargaining, writing, public speaking, strategic planning, and other skills supporting their leadership development. Analysis of contemporary political issues rounded out the training.
More recently, the MLI has incorporated an internship component. While the residency portion of the program has been shortened, participants now return to their home districts/sectors/division to complete five days of work in either organizing or politics. Participants now get a combination of classroom learning and field experience.
All levels of our Union need leadership, and many MLI graduates are now local activists, local officers, staff and National Executive Board members. The faces of CWA leadership are no longer predominantly white and male. People of color and women in leadership roles now come much closer to mirroring the demographics of the membership of our great union.
Resolved: On this 30th Anniversary of the CWA Minority Leadership Institute, the 74th CWA convention expresses our deepest gratitude to the pioneers whose foresight and concern led to the development of the CWA Minority Leadership Institute.
Resolved: The CWA Minority Leadership Institute will continue its rich tradition of leadership development so that our Union leaders at all levels are prepared to build a broader movement for justice and fairness for all, in the workplace and in the larger society.
Resolved: All CWA locals shall offer opportunities for CWA Minority Leadership Institute graduates to share their knowledge and expertise with others.
Resolved: Every CWA local union shall commit to foster diversity at all levels of leadership in order to promote racial and gender equity and economic justice.