The Communications Workers of America (CWA), founded in 1938 as the National Federation of Telephone Workers to unionize telephone operators, has in recent decades tried to rebuild sharply falling membership by recruiting members outside its core industries. The AFL-CIO affiliate now represents workers in communications, healthcare, newspapers, typography, broadcasting and other fields. The CWA began organizing in the airline industry in the mid-1990s, and made several unsuccessful attempts towards the end of that decade to unionize American’s agents and representatives. In the airline industry, CWA represents passenger service agents only at US Airways and its regional affiliate Piedmont.
Unions are governed by a constitution that is supposed to outline the rules of membership and obligations of all members, including the union’s authority to increase dues and impose fines and assessments on members. Any employee considering union representation should carefully review the CWA’s constitution and bylaws.
To view what we believe is the complete CWA constitution, click here.
Member dues pay union officials' salaries. According to the CWA’s latest federal financial filings that we have seen, the union’s officers received an average salary of $148,668.
In its 2012 filing with the Department of Labor, the CWA reported the following amounts paid to union officials:
|Lawrence R. Cohen||President||$193,793||$15,359||$209,152|
|James D. Clark||IUE-CWA Division President||$151,329||$40,891||$192,220|
|Daniel Wasser||Executive Officer||$121,551||$62,885||$184,436|
|Annie L. Hill||Secretary-Treasurer||$172,490||$7,481||$179,971|
|James L. Weitkamp||Vice President||$151,329||$18,698||$170,027|
|Edward F. Mooney||Vice President||$145,724||$22,720||$168,444|
|Seth M. Rosen||Vice President||$151,329||$15,007||$166,336|
|Brooks W. Sunkett||Vice President||$151,329||$13,133||$164,462|
|Judith R. Dennis||Vice President||$151,329||$12,306||$163,635|
|Bernard J. Lunzer||TNG-CWA President||$151,329||$12,165||$163,494|
|Ralph V. Maly||Vice President||$151,329||$11,397||$162,726|
|Christopher M. Shelton||Vice President||$151,329||$10,798||$162,127|
|Ronald D. Collins||Chief of Staff||$151,329||$10,090||$161,419|
|Mary L. Taylor||Vice President||$151,329||$9,358||$160,687|
|James C. Joyce||President-Nabet||$151,329||$4,459||$155,788|
|Carol D. Rothman||TNG-CWA Secretary-Treasurer||$128,974||$8,978||$137,952|
Union dues are set by the union and can be increased at any time, to the extent consistent with the union’s constitution and bylaws.
Union dues may pay for things like:
While dues may vary, CWA has reported that members will pay monthly dues of 1.3 percent of their hourly wage. Most union dues are automatically deducted from a member’s pay. Referred to as “Dues Checkoff,” unions typically seek to make automatic dues deductions a requirement in any collective bargaining, because it is a way to guarantee the union dues and fees are paid on time. (Employees sometimes ask what a union might be willing to give up in its negotiations on behalf of employees, in order to get employers to agree to “Dues Checkoff.”)
Most union contracts also include a “Union Security Clause” that requires all employees in the represented workgroup to join the union and pay dues or at least pay an agency fee. Such clauses may also require that a company fire any employee who fails to pay union dues or fees. At American Airlines, the Allied Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union each have union security clauses in their contracts.
According to its 2012 LM-2, the CWA took in $294,873,669 in dues money and other receipts and spent $289,445,998.
For an idea of how the CWA spent union membership dues, see the chart below. To see the CWA's full 2012 LM-2 form, click here.
Strikes can be highly destructive and costly for participants, other employees, a company and its customers. The 22-day strike at British Airways in the summer of 2010 cost the airline an estimated $173.2 million, while strikers lost nearly a month of pay and benefits.
Since 2000 the CWA has called more than a dozen strikes, including a major strike at SBC Communications in 2004 in which the union urged the company’s customers to switch to AT&T. In all, the SBC strike affected more than 100,000 workers in 13 states and did irreparable damage to the company.
When 72,000 CWA workers went on strike at Verizon Communications in August 2000, the work stoppage focused on the union’s efforts to organize workers at other Verizon subsidiaries and divisions. The strike lasted 18 days, with more than 140 reports of vandalism or harassment involving Verizon employees and equipment in New York City alone.
|Company||Start||End||Days Out||Workers Idled|
|Hubbell Power Systems||11/9/2004||11/17/2004||6||506|
|Dresser Rand Company||8/3/2003||12/3/2003||84||424|
|Verizon Information Services||10/30/2001||2/8/2002||69||277|
|Alstom Signaling, Inc.||5/16/2003||6/28/2003||31||117|
|Swepco Tube Corporation||2/23/2001||3/3/2001||6||58|
|Overlook Mutual Homes, Inc.||8/10/2001||8/15/2001||4||15|
A union cannot offer any guarantees, in this industry or any other.
This was clear at US Airways during that company’s restructuring and ultimate bankruptcy following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In October 2001, CWA-represented customer service agents and reservation representatives at US Airways were among the 11,000 employees furloughed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. When the airline filed for bankruptcy in 2002, 6,700 CWA members were among those asked to take wage cuts and other concessions to help the company return to profitability. And when the union refused, the bankruptcy court ultimately nullified the labor contracts covering more than 19,000 employees. The wage cuts and workforce reductions continued when the airline filed for bankruptcy again in 2004, impacting union and non-union employees alike.
As always, the best guarantee of job security and good wages and benefits is a healthy company. As was the case with US Airways, union representation doesn’t provide that guarantee.