“A trained, motivated army of 50,000 stewards and activists to defend workers’ workplace interests will be deployed by the Communications Workers of America, according to a decision by its annual convention held July 10-11 in Las Vegas. The army of stewards will join with activists in other unions to “build a movement for fundamental change.”

The union aims to “change the terms of engagement with our employers and reshape the economic landscape,” said the union’s president, Larry Cohen. “Offense, not defense,” is the point of a newly established $24 million-per-year Strategic Industry Fund, he said.

Cohen’s goal, which he has taken to the entire AFL-CIO as its new organizing committee chairman, is to make union stewards “soldiers for democracy.” Cohen, nearing the end of his first year in office, was a founding leader of Jobs with Justice.

CWA also wants to build a new political program to take on local community fights for good jobs, health care and the right to organize, among other causes, said the union’s secretary treasurer, Barbara Easterling. CWA will increase resources for political campaigns through stepped-up voluntary contributions from members, she said, citing a $5 million fundraising goal.

Easterling warned the delegates that “anyone who sits back and waits for the Democrats to run a dynamic, competent campaign would be making a huge mistake.” That leaves the fight up to the union movement, she declared. “We have no choice but to fight. Politics is not a spectator sport. Whether we like it or not, we are all participants in our democracy,” she said.

Half of the CWA’s 700,000 members work in the nation’s telecommunications industry.

— Press Associates Inc.