Listen up! – Cummings becomes first African American CWA president
Claude Cummings Jr. was elected president of the 600,000 member Communications Workers of America during the union’s 79th convention in St. Louis on July 10, 2023. He becomes the first Black person to guide the union in its 85-year history.
The convention had another landmark election result when Ameenah Salaam was elected the union’s secretary-treasurer, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position.
Cummings Jr., who served as District 6 vice president which includes Missouri, breezed to victory in a runoff election over Ed Mooney with 59% of delegate votes.
Cummings campaigned that he would create a more inclusive and progressive direction for the union. He said he had already changed some union practices and would change more if elected.
“Where others have talked about change, I have made change happen even inside of our own union,” he said.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, called Cummings’ election “not just a personal achievement, but a monumental stride forward for all Americans.”
“His leadership and resilience serve as a beacon, illuminating the path for the next generation. His remarkable accomplishment reminds us that each step we take contributes to the collective march toward a society where race-based discrimination is a thing of the past.”
During his nomination speech, Local 6222 President Ray Rodriguez said Cummings “fights for workers regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.”
“He will never, never, never, ever back down or walk away from an opportunity to make our members’ lives better,” Rodriguez said
“He will always file lawsuits and National Labor Relations Board charges to protect our members.”
Cummings began work at Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) in 1973 and worked as a Frame Attendant and Communications Technician, maintaining systems for businesses and agencies including NASA.
He is no stranger to groundbreaking accomplishments.
Prior to his election to District 6 vice president, Cummings was CWA Local 6222 vice president in Houston, 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 the positions.
As District 6 Vice President Cummings led negotiations for CWA Bargaining Committees across the District which have led to wage increases, better medical benefits, signing bonuses, job security and additional jobs for the bargaining unit members.
He serves as 1st Vice President of the NAACP Houston Chapter, 2nd Vice President Texas State NAACP Conference, Executive Board Member of the National NAACP Labor Committee, Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board Member, Push Democracy Forward Executive Board Member (a faith-based non-partisan organization that focuses on protecting our Democracy), while also serving as president of the Harris County Coalition Black Trade Unionists.
He is a trustee for the National Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and an at-large member of A. Phillip Randolph Institute Executive Board,
A Houston, Tex., native, 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.
Cummings succeeds Chris Shelton who stepped down after serving as president for eight years and spending 55 years mobilizing, representing, and organizing with CWA.
In her new role, Salaam is responsible for overseeing the union’s operating budget, investments and membership funds, facilities, and other operations. She also is charged with ensuring full fiscal and legal compliance by the International CWA and locals with all government, financial and regulatory requirements.
She has served as a steward, local officer, staff Representative, area director, District Vice President assistant, and assistant to the CWA International president.
Salaam has played an integral role in organizing, bargaining and mobilization campaigns, supporting staff and pushing CWA’s core mission forward with effective strategic planning and fiscal responsibility, according to a release.
“She has taken charge of union-wide issues in the CWA President’s office, including union governance and administration, the Convention and Presidents’ Meeting, staffing, AFL-CIO coordination, overseeing internal and external communications, education, health & safety, human rights, and more.”