Who We Are

CWA, the largest telecommunications union in the world, represents over 700,000 men and women in both private and public sectors, including over half a million workers who are building the Information Highway.

CWA members work in telecommunications, broadcasting, cable TV, journalism, publishing, manufacturing, airlines, customer service, government service, health care, education and other fields.

The union includes some 1,200 chartered local unions across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Members live in approximately 10,000 communities, making CWA one of the most geographically diverse unions.

CWA holds over 2,000 collective bargaining agreements spelling out wages, benefits, working conditions and employment security provisions for its members. Among major employers of CWA members are AT&T, Verizon, and other telecom companies; General Electric; the New York Times and Wall Street Journal; NBC and ABC television networks; the Canadian Broadcasting Co.; United, US Airways and other airlines; the University of California system, the state of New Jersey and various law enforcement agencies.

CWA’s top officers are President Larry Cohen, Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Rechenbach and Executive Vice President Annie Hill.

CWA was founded in 1938 at meetings in Chicago and New Orleans. First known as the National Federation of Telephone Workers, the union became the Communications Workers of America in 1947.

CWA got its start in the telephone industry, but today it represents workers in all areas of communications, as well as in health care and public service, customer service and many other fields.

CWA is one of America’s fastest growing unions and a number of unions have affiliated with CWA because of its reputation for democracy and membership involvement.

  • The Association of Flight Attendants merged with CWA in 2003, adding its professionalism and expertise on airline industry issues (CWA has represented airline passenger service employees since 1999).
  • The International Union of Electronic Workers merged with CWA in 2000, becoming the IUE-CWA Industrial Division.
  • The Newspaper Guild merged with CWA in 1997, as did the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees.
  • The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) merged with CWA in 1994.
  • The International Typographical Union, America’s oldest labor union, merged with CWA in 1987.

CWA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the Canadian Labour Congress, the worldwide UNI Global Union, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF), and the International Metalworkers’ Federation IMF).


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The Communications Workers of America (CWA) was founded at meetings in Chicago and New Orleans in 1938. First known as the National Federation of Telephone Workers, convention delegates in 1947 changed the name to Communications Workers of America.
CWA joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1949 and has been an affiliate of the AFL-CIO since the two labor organizations merged in 1955.

The late Joseph A. Beirne was the Union’s founding president. Glenn E. Watts was elected president in July, 1974 and served until mid-1985. Morton Bahr became the third president of CWA with his election by acclamation on July 16, 1985 during the Union’s 47th annual convention. On January 1, 1987, the 70,000-member International Typographical Union, America’s oldest chartered labor union, affiliated with CWA to become the union’s Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector.
On January 1, 1994, NABET merged with CWA.


With more than 1,250 chartered Local unions, CWA members live and work in more than 10,000 communities across North America. All chartered Locals must represent the workers in their respective jurisdictions and hold meetings at such time, place and frequency as the members may decide by vote. The Locals are also responsible for processing grievances and actively implementing all union programs.

At each level of CWA, the members set policy and control the finances. All members have the opportunity to participate in their Local union by attending meetings, serving on committees and voting for officers.


CWA’s office of community affairs has earned CWA a reputation for being the community-minded union. The department has conferences to educate our members on using community services, developing programs to help members with personal problems and enhancing CWA’s involvement in the community.

Use the Allied Printing Trades Label (the”Bug”).

CWA is now co-owner of the oldest union label in the world.

Formally, it is called the Allied Printing Trades Union Label. Informally, it’s called the “bug.”

CWA became co-owner of the bug through a merger in 1987 with the International Typographical Union (ITU). Like other union labels, the Allied Printing Trades Label guarantees that the work was performed one hundred percent by union labor.

Thousands of CWA members’ work is identified by the Allied Bug.

All Locals should make sure that any original printing carries the Allied Printing Trades Union Label.

Click here to contact CWA’s communications office.