“You know, when I began this journey, nearly four decades ago in Houston, Texas, by following in my father’s footsteps in [the] CWA, I never dreamed that I would have the chance to be standing here as the first Black president of CWA,” Claude Cummings Jr. proclaimed on July 12 after he was elected to serve as president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the D.C.-based AFL-CIO–affiliated union that represents people who work in media, tech, telecommunications, public service, education, and related fields.

Cummings was elected to take over the leadership position during the union’s 79th convention in St. Louis, MO, which took place July 10–12. Elected over Ed Mooney by a margin of 59% to 41%; Cummings is the first Black person elected to serve as CWA president in the union’s 85-year history.

Ameenah Salaam was elected to serve as the CWA’s secretary-treasurer, and is the first Black woman to serve in that position. Cummings called Salaam “a powerhouse who understands the type of effective leadership our union needs.”

In his address to the CWA after his convention win, Cummings gave a speech that emphasized the importance of unity and the necessity of bridging any differences so the union can do the progressive work it needs to do.

One major issue CWA members want addressed is the way companies are confronting remote work issues. Although worker opportunities to have Work From Home (WFH) days became widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are now demanding that workers return to their office buildings. Cummings, who is an at-large member of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an African American trade unionist group, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, has pledged to fight for the maintenance of WFH for union members.

“I’ve already talked to AT&T management this morning and they’re getting a schedule together so we can meet with [AT&T CEO John Stankey] and the rest of the senior vice presidents…about the issues that are important to us. And we’re bringing the VPs into those meetings so we can lay out to them what we’re not going to do,” Cummings told the convention.

“Our values of community and solidarity are the foundation of our strength as a union.”

In his presidential acceptance speech, Cummings emphasized that “is why, at this very moment, we all have to commit to coming together as one union, one family, and together fight for what we collectively believe in. That I am Black may be historic in the eyes of others, but for CWA in District 6…this milestone is just a continuation of our legacy of open-door opportunity for all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other differences that may separate us but do not divide us.”

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