CWA Women's Conference Inspires Members to 'Learn, Think, Change'

Womens Conference - Large Group

About 200 CWA women, and men, attended the National Women's Conference in Chicago last week. Photos by Dawn Sickles, CWA Local 1101.

Below: Audience members look at an illustration of an early all-male, all-white CWA Executive Board. During her keynote address, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill (at podium), compared it with a photo of today's more diverse board.

Womens Conference

Rousing speakers, authors, panel discussions and group activities at the CWA National Women's Conference in Chicago last week inspired 200 eager participants as they developed action plans for the coming year.

Energized by what they heard and learned, participants set goals that focused on each side of the CWA Triangle — organizing, bargaining/representation and political/legislative work.

The conference, with the theme, "Learn, Think, Change," was planned by the CWA National Women's Committee. Members are Kathleen Hernandez, District 1; Kathy Jo Hillman, District 2-13; Kim Ball, District 3; Jennifer Morgan, District 4; Virginia Anderson-Dunbar, District 6; Shari Wojtowicz, District 7; and Gayle Crawley, District 9, the committee's chair.

One big change for union women was illustrated photographically by CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, who showed the audience a picture of what was once CWA's all-male, all-white executive board, and a current photograph of the union's far more diverse board.

"I talked about the fact that we had made a difference, but we still have a long way to go," Hill said. "We've made progress, as the photographs show, but we're still not finished."

By focusing on building coalitions and working with allies, Hill said the conference "had one of the best agendas I've seen," reflecting CWA's overall program while tying it to issues of special concern to women. For instance, one presentation looked at CWA's work building coalitions in various states to push for paid sick leave laws.

With 2011 marking the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the conference included a film about the tragedy that killed 146 garment workers, mostly young immigrant women, in New York City. A second film shown, "Made in Dagenham," is known as Britain's Norma Rae. "It was so engrossing that even the hotel staff asked where they could purchase copies to share with family members," said Nancy Biagini, CWA representative for legislative/human rights.

Participants ended the conference by lining up to sign a pledge of solidarity showing their strong support for Verizon workers fighting for a fair contract.