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Communications Workers of America Photographs and Videos

Call Number



1915-1995, inclusive
; 1960-1988, bulk


Communications Workers of America
Rairdon, Horace


11.25 Linear Feet in 8 record cartons, 4 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize flat box, 5 oversize folders, 1 photograph box, and 5 flat-file folders

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


The Communications Workers of America (CWA) was founded in 1947 as an industrial union of telephone industry workers. This collection documents the union's activities, including strikes and national conventions, through photographic prints, slides, a scrapbook, and videos.

Historical/Biographical Note

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), founded in 1947 as an industrial union of telephone industry workers, was the culmination of nearly a half-century of struggle for telephone unionism. Its first president was Joseph A. Beirne, who had led its predecessor union, the National Federation of Telephone Workers (NFTW), in an organizing campaign and a nation-wide strike in 1946 that resulted in the first national agreement with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T).

During the next twenty-five years under the leadership Beirne, the CWA moved aggressively to organize all the telephone workers in the United States. It was not until 1974, however, after years of labor-management unrest and a series of strikes, that AT&T agreed to system-wide collective bargaining. Shortly after the national contract was signed, Joseph Beirne died and was replaced as President by Secretary-Treasurer Glenn E. Watts. In the 1960s, the CWA became an active participant in international labor activities supporting the United States government's Cold War policies through the union's involvement in organizations such as the CIA- and USAID (United States Agency for International Development)- financed American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD).

In the 1980s the CWA began to expand beyond telecommunications, creating a Public Employees Department that successfully organized 34,000 New Jersey state workers in 1981. In 1985 Morton Bahr became the CWA President. In 1987 the CWA merged with the International Typographical Workers Union. In 1992 it absorbed the National Association of Broadcast Employees and the Newspaper Guild merged with the CWA. By the 2000s the CWA had become one of the United States' largest and strongest unions with more than 600,000 members.


The records are arranged in four series. Series I has been further arranged into subseries; the contents of each subseries are arranged chronologically with the except of Subseries IL, which has been arranged alphabetically. Series II-IV are unprocessed and have not been arranged by an archivist. The series and subseries arrangement of the collection is as follows:

Series I: Photographic Prints, 1915-1988.
Subseries IA: Bargaining.
Subseries IB: Convenctions, Conferences, and Meetings.
Subseries IC: Group Photographs.
Subseries ID: Political/Legislative.
Subseries IE: Strikes, Demonstrations, and Parades.
Subseries IF: Union Activities.
Subseries IG: International.
Subseries IH: Union Officers.
Subseries II: Technology and Workplace.
Subseries IJ: Oversized Photographs.
Subseries IK: Beatrice Smith Photographs.
Subseries IL: Addendum.
Series II: Slides, circa 1915-1986.
Series III: Horace Rairdon Scrapbook, circa 1940-1975.
Series IV: Videos, 1985-1995.

Folders are arranged chronologically within subject series.

Organized into 12 subseries:

Scope and Content Note

Communications Workers of America Photographs and Videos consists of photographic prints, slides, a scrapbook, and videos, mostly from the 1960s through the 1980s. Most materials are images documenting union activities, including national conventions, congresses, bargaining, strikes, demonstrations, members at work, and changes in telecommunications technology. The scrapbook contains union ephemera in addition to photographs. Videos date from the late 1980s and early 1990s and document conventions and other union activities.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection, created by the Communications Workers of America, was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); The Communications Workers of America Photographs and Videos; PHOTOS.086; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive; New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Communications Workers of America donated photographs and records in a series of accessions starting in 1995; addtiional materials were added periodically. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 1987.011, NPA.2000.061, NPA.2000.038, NPA.2003.001, NPA.2003.005, NPA.2003.109, NPA.2005,007, NPA.2005.061, NPA.2006.064, NPA.2006.066, 2018.011, and 2018.024.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Communications Workers of America, Local 1151 Records (WAG 244)
Records of Communications Workers of America (WAG 124)
Records of Communications Workers of America, Addendum (WAG 124.1)
Communications Workers of America, District 1 Records (WAG 117)
Communications Workers of America, District 2 Records (WAG 218)
Eleanore Collins Papers (WAG 089)

Other Finding Aids

A description of individual photographs in Subseries IA-IJ is available in the reading room.

Collection processed by

Miriam Diamond, 1998; Gail Dancy, 2001; Erika Gottfried, 2009

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:38:26 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English.

Processing Information

In January 2014, unprocessed addenda, as well as a portion of a videos collection and scrapbook, were integrated into the collection. To facilitate the incorporation of additonal photographs, slides, a scrapbook, and videos, the original ten series of the collection became subseries A-J of Series I: Photographic Prints. Rolled photographs were treated by preservation staff in July 2014. Graphic and media materials separated from the original collection were integrated into Series I, Subseries IL, Addendum; and Series IV, Videos; February 2018 as Accession 2018.011. Accession 2018.024 was added to Subseries IL March 2018.

Edition of this Guide

CWA Photos Final.doc


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012