Claude Cummings Jr. elected president of CWA at convention in St. Louis


CLAUDE CUMMINGS JR. addresses delegates of the Communications Workers of America after his election as president of the union at CWA’s 79th convention, held in St. Louis. Cummings is the first Black man elected as CWA president. Ameenah Salaam, who was elected Secretary-Treasurer, is the first Black woman to serve in the role. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis – In a historic election, Claude Cummings Jr. was elected as president of the Communications Workers of America by delegates to the union’s 79th convention here, and Ameenah Salaam was elected Secretary-Treasurer. Respectively, they are the first Black man and first Black woman to hold those offices in CWA.

“When I started this journey nearly four decades ago in Houston, Texas, I followed in my father’s footsteps in CWA,” Cummings said. “I never dreamed that I would have the chance be standing here as the first Black president of CWA. It would be a lie to say this journey has been easy, but through it all my commitment to our union, to all of our members has never wavered, because CWA is my home.

“Our values of unity and solidarity are the foundation of our strength as a union. Which 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,” Cummings said.

“We must focus on what we can accomplish together. We can and will build CWA as even more powerful advocate for worker rights, and unity is a key. I am ready, willing and able to bring this union into a new era of trust and transparency. That is the only way we can productively address growing concerns and challenges within and outside of our union.

“I’ve been in the trenches, from picket lines to politicians’ offices, from business sites of worker injustice to pushing for policies to correct them,” he said. “I will never, never back down from a fight and the door to my  office will always be open. This is our union and your stake in our success will always be as great as mine.”

Cummings succeeds Chris Shelton who stepped down after serving as president for eight years and spending 55 years mobilizing, representing and organizing with CWA.

Since 2011, Cummings has served as vice president of CWA District 6, representing more than 45,000 members in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

A native of Houston, Texas, Cummings started his union career when he went to work for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) in 1973 and worked as a Frame Attendant and Communications Technician, maintaining systems for NASA, among other corporate customers. Prior to his election to District 6 Vice President he was President of CWA Local 6222 representing more than 8,000 members, having served previously in other leadership positions in the local, including vice president. Cummings was the first Black man elected to all of these positions.

Salaam, a native of Wilmington, Del., started her union career when she went to work for Diamond State Telephone in 1991 as a customer service representative. She was elected as a CWA Local 13100 steward and served as vice president of the local until September 1997 when she joined the CWA national staff. As an assistant to outgoing CWA President Chris Shelton, she has played critical leading roles in organizing, bargaining and mobilization campaigns, supporting staff and pushing CWA’s core mission forward.

“Today, we find ourselves faced with greater challenges, but even greater opportunities,” Cummings said. “Our union is strong when people work with each other for each other.

“Our values of unity and solidarity are the foundation of our strength as a union, which is why in this very moment we all have to commit to coming together as one union and together fight.

“That will allow all of us to meet our challenges, wherever and however, they may come and never, never forget that we cannot and will not give up the fight. Because when we come together, work together, stand together and fight together, we will always win. When we fight, we win.”

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