|Predecessor||National Federation of Telephone Workers|
|Headquarters||Washington, DC, US|
|Claude Cummings Jr.|
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is the largest communications and media labor union in the United States, representing about 700,000 members in both the private and public sectors (also in Canada and Puerto Rico). The union has 27 locals in Canada via CWA-SCA Canada (French: Syndicat des communications d'Amérique) representing about 8,000 members. CWA has several affiliated subsidiary labor unions bringing total membership to over 700,000. CWA is headquartered in Washington, DC, and affiliated with the AFL–CIO, the Strategic Organizing Center, the Canadian Labour Congress, and UNI Global Union. The current president is Chris Shelton.
In 1918 telephone operators organized under the Telephone Operators Department of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. While initially successful at organizing, the union was damaged by a 1923 strike and subsequent AT&T lockout. After AT&T installed company-controlled Employees' Committees, the Telephone Operators Department eventually disbanded. The CWA's roots lie in the 1938 reorganization of telephone workers into the National Federation of Telephone Workers after the Wagner Act outlawed such employees' committees or "company unions". NFTW was a federation of sovereign local independent unions that lacked authority over the affiliated local unions leaving it at a serious organizational disadvantage. After losing a strike with AT&T in 1947, the federation led by Joseph A. Beirne, reorganized as CWA, a truly national union, which affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1949.
CWA has continued to expand into areas beyond traditional telephone service. In 1994 the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians merged with the CWA and became The Broadcasting and Cable Television Workers Sector of the CWA, NABET-CWA. Since 1997, it includes The Newspaper Guild (now renamed The NewsGuild-CWA). In 2004, the Association of Flight Attendants merged with CWA, and became formally known as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, or AFA-CWA. In 2020 CWA launched the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) initiative to unionize tech, video game, and digital workers which has led to CWA becoming a major union for US and Canada tech worker organizing, including organizing all non-management workers at the Hawaiʻi digital wireless carrier Mobi in 2022.
Following is a partial list of contracts and strikes that the Communications Workers of America were involved in:
|Year||Company||Number of Members Affected||Duration of Strike||Notes|
|1955||Southern Bell Telephone Co.||50,000||72 days||Strike was in answer to management's effort to prohibit workers from striking. An expensive strike due to significant number of illegal firings and civil suits from Southern Bell. Out of 200 fired strikers, 150 were reinstated following legal action, with over $200,000 in back pay awarded. AT&T was forced to acknowledge the union.|
|1968||AT&T||200,000||18 days||Wage increases to compensate for cost of living, and medical benefits won|
|1971||Bell System||400,000||9 months||Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) won for workers|
|1983||Bell System||600,000||22 days||Last contract with the Bell System before its breakup. Bell System sought givebacks. The contract resulted in Wage increases, employment security, pension, and health improvements.|
|1986||AT&T||175,000||25 days||COLA clause suspended in contract - former Bell System contracts vary substantially from the AT&T contract.|
|1989||AT&T||175,000||n/a||Child and elder care benefits added to contract. COLA clause removed from contract|
|1989||NYNEX||175,000||17 weeks||Strike was due to major health care cuts by NYNEX|
|1998||US West||34,000||15 days||Strike was due to mandatory overtime demands and forced pay-for-performance plan. Overtime caps were won.|
|2000||Verizon||80,000||18 days||Verizon strike of 2000: Strike was due to mandatory overtime demands. Provisions for stress were won.|
|2011||Verizon||45,000||13 days||Strike was due to major wage and health care cuts by Verizon, a forced pay-for-performance plan and movement-of-work job security provisions. Contract extended.|
|2012||AT&T||20,000||2 Days||AT&T West; California, Nevada, and AT&T East; Connecticut - Unfair labor practice strike during contract negotiations.|
|2016||Verizon||40,000||49 Days||Verizon strike of 2016: Issues include healthcare and pension costs, moving call center jobs overseas and temporary job relocations. Call center jobs were returned to the bargaining unit; pension increases won; healthcare reimbursement added and first Verizon Wireless contract reached.|
|2019||AT&T||20,000||5 days||2019 AT&T strike: AT&T Southeast - Unfair labor practice strike during contract negotiations.|
According to CWA's Department of Labor records since 2006, when membership classifications were first reported, the total reported membership has varied greatly and unpredictably due to the addition and removal of reported membership categories. As of 2014, around 27%, or a fourth, of the union's total membership are classified as "non-dues-paying retirees", and not eligible to vote in the union. The other, voting eligible, classifications are "active" (65%) and "dues-paying retired" (8%). CWA contracts also cover some non-members, known as agency fee payers, which number comparatively about 7% of the size of the union's membership. This accounts for 166,491 "non-dues-paying retirees" and 52,240 "dues-paying retirees", plus about 43,353 non-members paying agency fees, compared to 404,289 "active" members.
But despite this swell in labor activism, employees at no major video game studios and only a handful of tech offices have formally voted to form or join a union.
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