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Guide to the Communications Workers of America Records WAG.124

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Jane Latour, Harry Berberian; Miriam Diamond; Yune-Ah Bahk; Jacqueline Seaberg; Bruce Kayton; Keri Myers.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 16, 2019
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Revised by Heather Mulliner to include incorporation of April 2016 accretion Updated by Megan O'Shea to incorporate artwork being sent to offsite art storage in September 2017. Updated by Jackie Rider to include re-integrated photographs. Edited by Nicole Greenhouse to reflect updated administrative information and added archived websites  , August 2016 , August 2017 , April 2018 , September 2019

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Communications Workers of America
Source: Communications Workers of America
Source - dnr: Easterling, Barbara
Source - dnr: Goldman, Debbie
Title: Communications Workers of America Records
Dates [inclusive]: 1908-2016
Dates [bulk]: 1947-1989
Abstract: The Communications Workers of America (CWA) which was founded in 1947 as an industrial union of telephone industry workers is now one of the largest unions in the United States with an active public employees department. This collection documents the unionization of telephone workers beginning shortly after the First World War. It includes records of the National Federation of Telephone Workers (the CWA's predecessor) which describes union activities from the mid -1930s through the Second World War. Materials consists largely of records from the President's office (Joseph A. Beirne, Glenn E. Watts and Morton Bahr) describing all aspects of union operations: organizing, collective bargaining, contract administrations, strikes, grievances, arbitrations, political action, and relations with the AFL-CIO.
Quantity: 363.5 Linear Feet in 369 boxes, 2 record cartons, 1 manuscript box, and 1 oversize folder in shared housing
Quantity: 4 websites in four archived websites.
Location: Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu at least two business days prior to research visit.
Call Phrase: WAG.124

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Historical/Biographical Note

The organization of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in 1947 was the culmination of nearly a half-century of struggle for telephone unionism. Until the middle 1890s there was very little union activity among telephone workers. In 1898 the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) began to try to organize some of the telephone linemen and cable splicers. Numerous strikes by the IBEW in the 1910s were unsuccessful as the Bell Telephone Company used its monopolistic control over the industry to defeat telephone unionism. However, during these years there was an upsurge of union membership among telephone operators mostly centered in Boston. A joint organizing campaign by the IBEW and Women's Trade Union League was very successful and won major concessions in 1914-1915. However, after a failed strike in 1919, the Bell Company began to aggressively promote company unions and aggressively fought all organizing drives.

Telephone unions found that it was very difficult to organize an industry in which the Bell Company had monopolistic control and almost unlimited resources. The company took advantage of the fact that telephone workers were geographically dispersed and the conversion to dial telephones made the system less vulnerable to labor slowdowns. Bell's hiring practices assured that the vast majority of telephone workers were relatively highly educated, native born Caucasians who were well spoken in English. Telephone operators were predominately young women who tended to work for only a few years before marrying and having families. These workforce demographics made union organizing difficult.

The passage of the Wagner Act in 1936, which removed all the legal barriers to industrial union organization, reinvigorated the campaign for telephone unionism. However, progress was slow as telephone workers were for the most part insulated from the worst effects of the Great Depression. The Bell Company's response to the Wagner Act that outlawed company unions was to transform them into so-called independent labor organizations (non AFL or CIO) that could claim to be in compliance with national labor laws. During the early CIO years from 1937 through 1942 union organizing proceeded slowly in the telephone industry. The focus was on amalgamating the various local unions that were plant, craft, or district based into a national federation.

In 1939 the National Federation of Telephone Workers (NFTW) was formed but this organization was weak and decentralized. Stagnant wages and deteriorating working conditions during World War II stimulated telephone worker solidarity and union amalgamation. When Joseph A. Beirne was elected President of NFTW in 1943 the union began a full-scale organizing campaign. In 1946 there was a nation wide strike that led to the first national agreement with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). However, recognizing the weakness of the NFTW structure AT&T forced another strike in 1947. When this strike collapsed the NFTW structure fell apart and the CWA was born.

During the next twenty-five years the CWA under the leadership of Joseph A. Beirne moved aggressively to organize all the telephone workers in the United States. AT&T with its monopolistic control resisted. It was, however, not until 1974 after years of labor-management unrest and a series of strikes that AT&T agreed to system wide collective bargaining. Shortly after the national contract was signed Joseph A. Beirne died and was replaced as President by Secretary-Treasurer Glenn E. Watts.

In the 1980s the CWA began to expand beyond telecommunications creating a Public Employees Department that successfully organized 34,000 New Jersey state workers in 1981. In 1985 Morton Bahr became the CWA President. In 1987 the CWA merged with the International Typographical Workers Union. In 1992 it absorbed the National Association of Broadcast Employees and the Newspaper Guild merged with the CWA. Today the CWA is one of the United States' strongest unions with more than 600,000 members.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the unionization of telephone workers beginning shortly after the First World War. It includes records of the National Federation of Telephone Workers (the CWA's predecessor) which describes union activities from the mid -1930s through the Second World War. The CWA records consist largely of materials from the President's office (Joseph A. Beirne, Glenn E. Watts and Morton Bahr) describing all aspects of union operations: organizing, collective bargaining, contract administrations, strikes, grievances, arbitrations, political action, and relations with the AFL-CIO. It also contains websites created by the CWA dating back from 2007.

Arrangement

Organized into 14 series:
I. National Federation of Telephone Workers
II. Executive Board Minutes
III. Conventions
IV. Committees
V. Officers
VI. Bargaining and Negotiations
VII. Strikes
VIII. Departments and Divisions
IX. Administrative
X. AFL-CIO and International Affairs
XI. Joseph A. Beirne Memorial Foundation
XII. Reports and Studies.
XIII. Archived Websites
XIV. Accretion to the Communication Workers of America Records

Folders are arranged by topic. Multiple series have been further arranged into sub-series. Series XIV has not been arranged by an archivist and remains in the order in which they were recieved.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bahr, Morton
  • McGovern, George S. (George Stanley), 1922-
  • Watts, Glenn E.
  • Morgan, John T.
  • Beirne, Joseph A., 1911-
  • Easterling, Barbara
  • Goldman, Debbie

Document Type

  • Legal documents.
  • Minutes (administrative records)
  • Financial records
  • Correspondence.
  • Constitutions.

Subject Organizations

  • American Telephone and Telegraph Company
  • Postal, Telegraph and Telephone Workers' International
  • United States. National Labor Relations Board
  • American Institute for Free Labor Development
  • Western Electric Company
  • Telephone Guild Workers
  • Bell Telephone Company
  • United Telephone Employees
  • Commercial Telephone Workers Union (Illinois)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • Montana Federation of Labor
  • Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.)
  • Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company
  • International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
  • Joseph A. Beirne Memorial Foundation
  • Southern Federation of Telephone Workers
  • National Federation of Telephone Workers
  • AFL-CIO
  • Communications Workers of America

Subject Topics

  • Collective labor agreements -- Telecommunication.
  • Company unions -- Telecommunication.
  • Labor unions and international relations -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Corporate divestiture -- United States.
  • American Telephone and Telegraph Company -- Reorganization.
  • Affirmative action programs -- United States.
  • Labor unions -- Latin America.
  • Labor unions -- Organizing -- United States.
  • Strikes and lockouts -- Telecommunication.
  • American Telephone and Telegraph Company -- Employees.
  • Telecommunication -- United States -- History.
  • Labor unions -- Elections -- United States.
  • Discrimination in employment.
  • Arbitration, Industrial.
  • Telecommunication -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Telecommunication -- Employees -- United States.
  • Women employees -- Telecommunication -- United States.
  • Telephone operators.
  • Labor unions -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Labor unions -- Contract administration.
  • Labor unions -- Telecommunication -- United States.
  • Labor unions -- Officials and employees.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the Communications Workers of America was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form: Identification of item, date; Communication Workers of America Records; WAG 124; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

To cite the archived website in this collection: Identification of item, date; Communication Workers of America Records; WAG 124; Wayback URL; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Communications Workers of America. District 1. Records (WAG 117)

Communications Workers of America. District 2. Records (WAG 218)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1032. Records (WAG 128)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1101. Vertical Files and Newsletters only.

Communications Workers of America.Local 1103. Records (WAG 130)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1150. Records (WAG 059)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1153. Records (WAG 132)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1172. Records (WAG 093)

Communications Workers of America. Local 1180. Records (WAG 063)

Communications Workers of America. Locals. Oral Histories (OH 026)

National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Local 15. Records (WAG 076)

National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. ABC Negotiations. Records (WAG 197)

International Typographical Union. Local 6, Benefit Board. Records (WAG 119)

Newspaper Guild. Local 3. Records (WAG 125)

United Telegraph Workers. Records (WAG 193)

Empire State Typographical and Mailer Conference, 1919-1979. Microfilm (MN 5544)

Anthony J. Silva (UTW Research Files). Records (WAG 205)

Eleanore Collins (Local 1153). Records (WAG 089)

Frank Karl (Local 1151). Records (WAG 192)

Bertram Powers (ITU, Local 6). Records (WAG 173)

Separated Material

Communications Workers of America Photographs (collection number: Photographs 86).

Communications Workers of America Oral Histories (collection number: Oral Histories 26A).

Communications Workers of America Moving Images Collection (Film and Video).

Communications Workers of America Audio Collection (Collection number: NS 26A).

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu, (212) 998-2630 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Communications Workers of America via Barbara Easterling (CWA secretary/treasurer), 1995. The accession number associated with this gift is 1995.002.

Plaques given to Morton Bahr were discovered in the repository in 2014. The accession number associated with these materials is 2014.124. Additionally, a telegram and a small number of documents were found in the repository and were incorporated into the collection in 2014. The accession numbers associated with these items are 2014.072 and 2014.103.

Accretion to the Communication Workers of America donated by Debbie Goldman at the Communications Workers of America in March 2016. The accession number associated with this gift is 2016.023. Debbie Goldman send an additional donation of convention records in April 2016. The accession number associated with this gift is 2016.035.

Websites were initially selected by curators and captured through the use of The California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service in 2007 as part of the Labor Unions and Organizations (U.S.) Web Archive. In 2015, these websites were migrated to Archive-It. Archive-It uses web crawling technology to capture websites at a scheduled time and displays only an archived copy, from the resulting WARC file, of the website. In 2018, https://cwapolitical.org/ and https://speedmatters.org/ were added to the web archives. The accession number associated with these websites are 2019.097.

Processing Information

Plaques given to Morton Bahr were discovered in the repository in 2014 and added to the collection as Box 358. Also in 2014, the archived websites were added as Series XIII. The 2016 accretion was added to the record as its own series in accordance with previous arrangement and description decisions. Materials in the accretion were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes and arranged in the order in which they were recieved. Oversized materials were removed and rehoused in oversized boxes and folders. An additional accretion of convention binders received in April 2016 were added to Series III: Conventions. Materials from this donation were removed from their original binders and placed in acid-free folders.

In August 2017, one item was retroactively accessioned into the collection. This item was prepared to be moved to offsite art storage in September 2017.

In 2019, archived websites were added to the finding aid.

Take Down Policy

Archived websites are made accessible for purposes of education and research. NYU Libraries have given attribution to rights holders when possible; however, due to the nature of archival collections, we are not always able to identify this information.

If you hold the rights to materials in our archived websites that are unattributed, please let us know so that we may maintain accurate information about these materials.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on this website for which you have not granted permission (or is not covered by a copyright exception under US copyright laws), you may request the removal of the material from our site by submitting a notice, with the elements described below, to the repository email.

Please include the following in your notice: Identification of the material that you believe to be infringing and information sufficient to permit us to locate the material; your contact information, such as an address, telephone number, and email address; a statement that you are the owner, or authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed and that you have a good-faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; a statement that the information in the notification is accurate and made under penalty of perjury; and your physical or electronic signature. Upon receiving a notice that includes the details listed above, we will remove the allegedly infringing material from public view while we assess the issues identified in your notice.

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Container List

Series I: National Federation of Telephone Workers (NFTW) Records, 1919-1972

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of materials created or collected by the National Federation of Telephone Workers (NFTW), and includes financial records, correspondence of NFTW President Joseph A. Beirne, collective bargaining records, convention and conference proceedings, meeting minutes of the bargaining policy committee, materials documenting the 1947 NFTW strike, and documentation from National Labor Relations Board cases, including constitutional committee reports and reports concerning jurisdictional disputes. This series also contains materials about member organizations, such as the Commercial Telephone Workers Union, United Telephone Employees, Southern Federation of Telephone Workers, and Telephone Guild Workers (including Executive Board and General Council minutes). Other materials in this series document the transition from the NFTW to the CWA.

Subseries I:A: Constitutions, Minutes and Correspondence, 1938-1972

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Constitutions, NFTW
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Constitutions, NFTW and Affiliates
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 NFTW History
1944-1965
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Minutes: Executive Board
Jun 1939
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Minutes: Executive Board
1940
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Minutes: Executive Board
Apr 1941
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Minutes: Executive Board
Jun 1941
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Minutes: Executive Board
Sep 1941
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Minutes: Executive Board
Jan 1942
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Minutes: Executive Board
Mar 1942
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Minutes: Executive Board
Apr 1942
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Minutes: Executive Board
Jun 1942-Sep 1942
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Minutes: Executive Board
1943
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Minutes: Executive Board
Jun 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Minutes: Executive Board
Jan 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Minutes: Executive Board
Jun 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Minutes: Executive Board
Sep 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Minutes: Executive Board
Dec 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Minutes: Executive Board
Jan 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Minutes: Executive Board
Feb 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Minutes: Executive Board
Apr 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 22 Minutes: Executive Board
May 1946-Jun 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 23 Minutes: Executive Board
Oct 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 24 Minutes: Executive Board
Dec 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 25 Minutes: Executive Board
Jan 1947
Box: 1 Folder : 26 Executive Board: Fact-Finding Committee
Feb 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 27 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne (JAB) to Officers, Staff
1943-1949
Box: 1 Folder : 28 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne to Executive Board
1942-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 29 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne to Member Organizations
1943-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 30 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne to Affiliates, Non-Affiliates
1943
Box: 1 Folder : 31 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne to Affiliates
1943-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 32 Correspondence: Joseph A. Beirne (General)
1943-1948
Box: 1 Folder : 33 Correspondence to Joseph A. Beirne, Officers, Staff
1942-1947
Box: 1 Folder : 34 Correspondence to Joseph A. Beirne, Affiliates, Non-Affiliates
1943
Box: 1 Folder : 35 Correspondence to Joseph A. Beirne, Affiliates, Non-Affiliates
1944-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Correspondence to Joseph A. Beirne, General
1943-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer to Officers, Staff
1943-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer to Executive Board
1943-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer to Member Organizations
1943-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer to Affiliates; Non-Affiliates
1942-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer
1943
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Correspondence to Secretary-Treasurer from Officers; Staff
1943-1944
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Correspondence to Secretary-Treasurer from Affiliates; Non-Affiliates
1943-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Correspondence: Secretary-Treasurer (General)
1943
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Correspondence: National Office, Member Organizations
1943-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Correspondence: National Office, to & from Affiliates
1943-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Legal Correspondence: National Office
1941-1947
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Correspondence; Vice President
1963-1972
Box: 2 Folder : 14 President's Office: Joseph A. Beirne Address, Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers (FLLTW)
1945
Box: 2 Folder : 15 President's Office: Joseph A. Beirne Address, Michigan Labor Temple
Aug 1945
Box: 2 Folder : 16 President's Office: Joseph A. Beirne, Statements, NFTW 13th National Assembly
1946