Retiring CWA leader speaks out

larry-cohen-cwa-2012-05-20The June edition of In These Times includes an interview with Larry Cohen, the recently retired leader of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in which he offers some prescriptions for an ailing labor movement.

Cohen praises union efforts like the United Food and Commercial Workers’ organizing drive at Walmart and the Service Employees International Union’s push for a $15 minimum wage.

“They are models of what we need to do and are at least as important as political activity,” he told ITT’s David Moberg. “They speak directly to working people, rather than hoping to elect those who will then speak for working people.”

Moberg wrote that “Cohen has promoted internal union democracy and membership involvement far more than the average union leader, and mobilized for cases that stretch the definition of union politics – from strong environmental action to electoral reform.”

In retirement Cohen plans to devote more energy to Democratic Initiative, a multi-movement organization for social change that the CWA helped found.

“We need reality therapy [in the United States],” he told Moberg. “Historically…, American workers have paid a heavy price for not embracing a multicultural society, and for not thinking that, if they weren’t under attack, they and their families didn’t have to worry. The result has been disastrous.”