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CWA Joe Beirne Foundation Scholarship


Joseph Beirne

It is that time to apply for the CWA Joe Beirne Foundation scholarship

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Who Was Beirne? Joseph Anthony Beirne is considered CWA’s founding leader.

The son of Irish immigrant parents – his dad was a union railroad worker – Beirne grew up in Jersey City, N.J. and went to work in 1927 for Western Electric, the Bell Telephone System’s manufacturing arm. With the New Deal labor reforms and passage of the Wagner Act in 1935, Beirne and others were inspired to begin organizing the nation’s phone workers.

After the National Federation of Telephone Workers was formed in 1938, the fiery and charismatic Beirne soon ascended to the presidency in 1943 at the age of 32. He set himself the mission of molding this loose federation of autonomous unions into a true international union. That goal, forged in the fires of a tough nationwide strike by 350,000 Bell System workers in 1947, was achieved the following year with creation of the modern Communications Workers of America.

With a strong new national structure and affiliation with the militant CIO in 1949, CWA under Joe Beirne’s leadership broadened its organizing focus, grew steadily in numbers and strength, and used an innovative pattern bargaining strategy to raise wage and benefit standards throughout the communications industry. The union also became a leading force in the political and legislative arenas, community services, the civil rights struggle, and global labor affairs.

When Beirne, who was seriously ill, stepped down from the presidency in June of 1974, CWA had become recognized as one of the most dynamic and progressive unions in the world – qualities that also described its leader for more than three decades.

Joe Beirne died on Labor Day 1974. The Joseph A. Beirne Foundation honors his lifelong commitment to education and progressive social causes.

Read more at: http://www.cwa-union.org/pages/beirne

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