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CWA's Cohen Champions a New Way Forward for Growth

One of labor's most innovative thinkers, CWA President and AFL-CIO Organizing Chair Larry Cohen is supporting a new type of local or group within locals: “member organizations" that represent and speak for workers who voluntarily sign up, even without collective bargaining agreements in hand. Pictured here at a 2013 rally speaking with a Casa de Maryland Guild member, Cohen outlined the concept in a July 30 interview with PAI during the federation's executive council meeting in Washington. The latest manifestation of the concept is UAW's announcement that it is chartering Local 42 for Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. – but only for those workers who sign up. While the “member organization” concept may seem new, Cohen says it isn't. CWA has tried the same idea in various states, including union-hostile Texas. “We have 11,000 members in the public sector” member organization, CWA Local 6186, in Texas “where collective bargaining is outlawed by the state constitution,” Cohen explains. Since it can't bargain, the local concentrates on political activism for its members and families. Ditto, he says, for CWA's 3,000-member Mississippi Alliance of State Employees.