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From the September-October
2008 issue of Union Democracy Review #175
Irony in the CWA
By Judith Schneider
When the Communications
Workers of America (CWA) wanted to promote member contributions to
its COPE fund, it focused on one of the union's prime legislative goals,
enactment of the Employee
Free Choice Act. Passage of that Act will require that a union be
recognized so long as a majority of workers at a bargaining unit sign
cards. This, the union argued "
will eliminate the employer
threats and intimidation, the harassment and firings and other employer
tactics that too often are a part of every union election today ."
The CWA was talking about freedom from fear in representation elections.
But what's going on in its internal union elections?
On the cover of its glossy COPE brochure, prominent
among a group of enthusiastic members vigorously supporting the union's
program, is Kevin Condy, a former CWA organizer and instructor in its
Steward's Army and a member of Local 1101. That local represents some
8000 phone company workers in New York and New Jersey. Condy, now a candidate
for L. 1101 Vice-President of Southern Manhattan and Al Russo, candidate
for Southern Business Agent are running against a slate of 13 incumbents
in the local's November election. They say that potential slate members
were discouraged from running with them by threats of reprisals. And they
say that union officials and employer representatives interfered with
efforts to get Condy on the ballot. For the Southern Manhattan VP slot,
he needed 100 nominating petition signatures from each of the four areas
in that division. According to Condy and Russo, union officials invoking
the help of the employer tried to block their access to worksites to prevent
their getting signatures and members were told that they were not allowed
to sign and that "things would happen" if they did. They say
that company representatives trailed them from worksite to worksite.
Although a couple of hundred signatures were excluded,
Condy made it on the ballot. Not so Victor Rosado when in 2005 he sought
to run for VP in L. 1104, which covers telephone company workers and state
university teaching and graduate assistants in New York. Rosado also was
required to obtain 100 signatures from each division; in his case there
were three. In one of them, Rosado claimed, worksites were scattered over
a large geographic area, their locations were not disclosed to him and
members were warned by union officials not to sign his petitions. Rosado's
complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor that the nominating process
violated the LMRDA resulted in the DOL's filing suit to overturn the election.
The case was settled and the DOL supervised a new election after L. 1104
changed its nomination procedure.
How about union members having the benefits of an
Employee Free Choice Act?
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