Resolution # 77A-19-01

Funding Our Fight for the Future

Billionaires and corporate CEOs continue to attack our labor movement and block working people from building unions. Today, less than 11 percent of U.S. workers belong to unions, including just 6.4 percent in the private sector. 

We know that our ability to sustain CWA members’ standard of living is closely tied to our ability to grow our union and its power. Our wages, benefits, and jobs are under attack as CWA employers turn to wage-lowering strategies such as outsourcing, offshoring, and union-busting. At the same time, non-union employers intensify their opposition to worker organizing.

Amid the escalating attacks on workers’ rights, CWA has remained strong. We have withstood this economic and political onslaught as well as any union, and we can point to many successes in the form of job preservation, membership growth, and strong contracts that maintain our members’ standard of living. But these struggles grow more difficult as the 1% grows stronger. The system is rigged against us. Each round of bargaining is harder than the last. 

CWA’s strategic response to this attack has been three-fold:

  • Convention delegates created the Strategic Industry Fund in 2006 to strengthen our position at the bargaining table, and in 2009 they expanded its purpose to include organizing. In 2013 delegates established the Growth Fund to strengthen CWA’s overall power through education, organizing, activism, and political action.
  • We created the CWA Strong program to revitalize our union by signing up new members, identifying new activists, and supporting local officers.
  • We have formed alliances with other groups to work toward building a pro-worker political and legislative environment.

The Strategic Industry Fund is funded with one-quarter hour of pay per member per month. These dollars go to the industry in which the contributing member works, and they underwrite campaigns with industry-specific goals to strengthen our bargaining power.

Each year’s Growth Fund deposit equals half the previous year’s investment earnings from the Members Relief Fund. These funds can be used for projects whose impact is greater than any specific industry, region or membership group, including organizing in new areas.

While SIF funding reflects the stability of overall dues collection, contributions to the Growth Fund rise and fall with stock-market returns. Since the last convention, there have been two separate years with no funds available to deposit in the Growth Fund. This uncertainty inhibits long-term planning and investment in our membership through the critical education, organizing, and political action programs that the Growth Fund supports.

CWA must rebalance these income allocations to effectively build our union. Income for the Strategic Industry Fund and the Growth Fund should be combined into a single funding flow and then divided: 50 percent to the Strategic Industry Fund and 50 percent to support national Growth Fund programs. 

As we rebalance our funds, CWA should also increase our investment and standing in the larger labor movement by affiliating 100 percent of our CWA members to the AFL-CIO, its state federations, and the Canadian Labour Congress via the combined income stream. This shift will serve our strategic interests by giving CWA locals a stronger voice inside their state federations, and CWA a stronger voice in the larger labor movement.

To fund this “wall-to-wall” affiliation, the Executive Board recommends directing 100 percent of the Members Relief Fund investment earnings into the new combined SIF and Growth Fund revenue stream. 

In the years since delegates created the Strategic Industry Fund, our Members Relief Fund (MRF) has grown to $428 million -- up from $377 million in 2009, the number set as the “floor” below which the fund must be replenished. At this moment in our labor movement, it does not make sense to allow this balance to continue to balloon when CWA could instead invest in organizing, building power, and strengthening our solidarity with our labor movement. Funding the full costs of wall-to-wall AFL-CIO affiliation will not only grow our power, it will free funds at both the local and national level that can be put to work immediately for our members.

In conjunction with the Defense Fund Oversight Committee, the CWA Executive Board will enforce rules to maintain a robust strike fund. Should an extended strike cause the MRF to fall below $400 million, we will reallocate one half of the MRF’s investment earnings to the strike fund. Should the MRF drop below the $377 million floor, new SIF and Growth Fund contributions will return to the MRF.

Rebalancing and reinvesting are important steps, but they are not enough. Ultimately, CWA’s strength grows from the solidarity and engagement of our membership. We know that our stewards are key to moving all aspects of the CWA Triangle: representation, movement building, and organizing. Our stewards are the face and voice of our union on the job.

For this reason, CWA must commit to investing significant resources into training the stewards who will help us build the strongest possible organization in every workplace. Public sector units with strong stewards have had a much greater success signing up new members prior to Janus. The same has long held true in our “open shops” in Right-to-Work-for-Less regions. As our CWA Strong polling shows, where members report a high degree of steward contact, they are more likely to agree that CWA does an excellent job of fighting for its members.

Resolved:

  1. Current income directed to the Strategic Industry Funds and all investment earnings from the Members Relief Fund shall be combined into a single funding stream.
  2. From this income stream, CWA shall make 100 percent of the per capita payments to affiliate our CWA members to the AFL-CIO, its state federations, and the Canadian Labour Congress. 
  3. Following the payment of AFL-CIO per capita payments, CWA shall assign 50 percent of these funds to the Strategic Industry Fund Silos and 50 percent of these funds to the Growth Fund. 
  4. Every local shall commit to create a systematic plan to expand and strengthen its steward structure. CWA will launch as a top union priority a “Stewards Strong” training and renewal program, supported by current union structures and supplemented by SIF/Growth funds.
  5. The Defense Fund Oversight Committee will continue to monitor SIF and Growth Fund projects and spending within the current rules, and to enforce the existing “floor” of MRF reserves. 

Nothing in this resolution shall prevent a local from opting to leave their state federation and thereby stopping affiliation payments made to the state fed on behalf of their members.