CWA members from across the country gathered in New Orleans last week for the 2018 Civil and Human Rights Conference, presented by CWA’s Women’s Committee and Civil Rights and Equity Committee. The four-day conference focused on CWA’s efforts to make CWA STRONG by organizing and building working class power through local activism and mobilization, as well as CWA’s Fight Forward towards social and economic justice.
CWAers heard from speakers including CWA President Chris Shelton; Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens; District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr., who heads CWA’s Human Rights Program; District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt; District 4 Vice President Linda Hinton; District 7 Vice President Brenda Roberts; Public Sector Vice President Brooks Sunkett; T&T Vice President Lisa Bolton; AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson; and IUE-CWA President Carl Kennebrew.
“In CWA, we recognize that our diversity is our strength,” said Shelton, firing up the attendees on Monday. “We are one Union. We are CWA. We are CWA STRONG!” Shelton urged CWA members to commit to spending every ounce of energy we have on taking back the House and Senate in 2018 in order to put the brakes on Donald Trump’s attacks on working people.
In discussing the racism that CWAers who are minorities experience, Shelton highlighted the story of Markeis McGlockton, the grandson of CWA Local 3179 Vice President Marcus Head who was murdered two weeks ago in Clearwater, Fla. McGlockton, who is African-American, was shot by a white man in a convenience store parking lot, with the county sheriff initially deciding not to press charges, citing Florida’s stand your ground law. The week of the Human Rights Conference, the State Attorney overruled the sheriff and charged the shooter with manslaughter. “We see racism and sexism encroach into our workplaces in many ways,” Shelton said. “And we must always fight it.”
District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr., spoke about recent CWA election victories in Missouri defeating a so-called “right-to-work” ballot initiative and electing CWA member Karla May to the State Senate. “We have 85 days until election day – judgement day,” said Cummings. “If we are going to win in November, we have to mobilize the African-American community, and this is a good example of what can happen when we do.”
Assistant to President Shelton Ameenah Salaam led a panel featuring CWA Local 1180 President Gloria Middleton, CWA Local 3411 President Matt Wood, and UCW-CWA Local 3865 Vice President Margaret Cook, who discussed what they are doing at the local level to make the CWA STRONG program a success.
CWA Secretary Treasurer Sara Steffens and AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson led a #MeToo workshop on how CWAers are addressing sexual harassment in the workplace and within the labor movement. Other workshops with packed rooms were held on criminal justice and police department reform, implicit bias, intersectionality, domestic violence, women in skilled trades, and getting union women to run for elected office, with attendees making enthusiastic commitments to get involved in their communities after the conference.
At the Mary Mays-Carroll Awards luncheon on Tuesday, the CRE committee honored CWA Local 1180 President Gloria Middleton and the Women’s Committee honored CLUW President Elise Bryant of TNG-CWA Local 32035.