Communications Workers of America Operators Division Local 1104 Records, 1949-2001, bulk 1980-1995
- Communications Workers of America. Local 1104 (Albany, N.Y.)
- The Operators and Service Employees Division of Communication Workers of America, Local 1104 represents those in the telecommunications industry. The collection includes board meeting information, calendars, contracts, financial records, photographs, and related information.
- 26.0 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Communications Workers of America Operators Division Local 1104 Records, 1949-2001(bulk 1980-1995). M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted with the exception of Series #6: Membership and several folders in Series #2. Researchers seeking access to this material should contact the head of archives.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The telephone operators collection contains a variety of documents illustrating the evolution of the group from its days with the Telecommunications International Union (TIU) through its first ten to fifteen years with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The materials represent a variety of activities ranging from everyday office issues to nation-wide concerns, though the majority of the collection focuses on local topics. Although the Local 1112 (eventually the 1104) formed in the late 1940s, the collection mainly covers the 1970s and later; there is a noticeable lack of material from the union's early days.
There is a considerable amount of correspondence which the union divided by national and local letters and memos. Many of them document decision making by CWA headquarters executive committee members and local executive committee members. Steve Early, James Irvine, and Morton Bahr are names that arise frequently on the national level while Donna Conroy, Jane Blaszczak, and Kim Young appear often on the local level; all of them were union committee members or officers in some capacity for many years and played a significant role in shaping the direction of the union through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The disaffiliation from the TIU and affiliation with CWA is well-documented with files showing drafts of new constitutions and by-laws as well as letters to the union's lawyers asking for advice on wording and content.
The collection also has a selection of legal contracts and agreements that the union made over the years, many of which deal with the period following the breakup of AT&T and issues within the Bell divisions, specifically NYNEX. There are also agreements regarding union affiliation. In addition, there are materials documenting the 1989 strike, scabs, and ramifications after the strike. Researchers will find a variety of day-to-day issues represented in the subject files dealing with specific offices and special projects. Conventions and seminars are represented in the collection on the national and local levels. Beginning in the 1970s, one of the major issues that the phone operators grappled with was the introduction of automated recordings that took over the calls that they used to handle, and there are paper documents as well as memorabilia reflecting that tension. Many of the union's activities, including strikes and conventions, are represented through photographs.
There is also a series for membership issues that features grievances as well as applications for membership, resignation paperwork, and cases that were not substantial enough to grieve them officially but still needed supervisory input and contained personal information on the part of the employee(s) involved.
- Biographical / Historical:
The telephone operators division of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is one of the original sectors of the CWA, a union that grew over the years to protect the interests of a large variety of professions. In 1918 phone operators gained union representation under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), but a 1923 strike led to the breakup of that union. By the end of the 1940s, however, the CWA blossomed from the National Federation of Telephone Workers, which formed in the late 1930s when operators decided it was time to try unionization again. Under the leadership of Joseph Beirne, the CWA became national, and in subsequent decades the union grew to include private and public workers in the education and healthcare sectors in addition to the original telecommunications members. [1, 1a]
The operators of the Telephone Traffic Union Upstate (TTUU), today part of the CWA, also have roots stretching back to the 1940s; the TTUU began in 1945 in Albany, New York as the Traffic Employees Association Upstate Area. Led by Marie McGoughan, who started as general secretary of the group before becoming chair of the general committee in 1949, the group members established themselves as proponents of better working conditions and wages for telephone operators. December 1949 brought about the first issue of the union's newsletter, Traffic Calls, and in 1950 the group voted to change its name to Telephone Traffic Union Upstate, New York. Headquarters were situated in three different locations around Albany before moving to Liverpool, New York in May 1976.  Although the union gained membership and support from men over the decades, the group was traditionally led by women and has featured many female officers.
Before they were members of the CWA, the American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) operators of the TTUU were affiliated with the Telecommunications International Union (TIU).  The TIU had an executive committee that oversaw the activities of its locals, but holes in the TIU constitution led to difficulties in 1984 when the TIU--an independent union up until that point--decided that it wanted to consider joining forces with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME) or the CWA. TTUU members thought they might be interested in joining the CWA, but it seemed as though the TIU was leaning toward joining AFSCME. That difference in wishes, combined with discrepancies over which TIU locals would be able to send delegates to a special conference regarding the affiliation question, ultimately led the TTUU to disaffiliate from the TIU and join the ranks of CWA phone operators instead. Additional ill-will stemmed from failure of the TIU and TTUU to reveal to their members that affiliation with AFSCME would mean a 'substantial increase' in dues and loss of previously recognized organizational privileges. 
The legendary breakup of AT&T also provided impetus for phone operators to make an affiliation change. Beginning in 1974, the American government brought anti-trust suits against AT&T. Arbitration continued until 1982 when AT&T agreed to dismantle the Bell operating system as it had existed for nearly a century. AT&T subdivided in 1984 into seven regional affiliates -- the "Baby Bells", so called because the old corporation was known as "Ma Bell."  The breakup coincided with the TIU's efforts to join AFSCME, and worries over employment conditions under the Baby Bells gave TTUU members more to consider as they made the decision to break away from the TIU and turn to the CWA instead.
The transition from TIU to CWA was gradual; the process began in 1984 but was not resolved until the early 1990s. Correspondence between TTUU President Donna Conroy and CWA headquarters in Washington, D.C. shows a slow integration of the TTUU into the CWA and some dissension over the number of people to be allowed at the bargaining table.  Despite the tentative transition, union members were seeing changes in the way they would do their jobs--as well as anticipating the need to fight for the right to do those jobs at all--and believed that the bargaining power of the CWA would provide them with the best employment protection. Ultimately the group retained its name "Telephone Traffic Union Upstate," but also added "CWA Local 1112" to that title once it became affiliated with the larger union.
Telephone operators cover several distinct areas of phone service. Central office operators handle local and long-distance call connections for customers. Directory assistance operators specifically provide phone numbers and area codes to callers while switchboard operators are typically employed within private offices to handle interoffice communications as well as directing outside callers.  As employees of AT&T and its subsidiaries, the operators of the TTUU Local 1112 would therefore be responsible mainly for central office and directory assistance work.
Union membership for phone operators became more crucial through the late 1980s and into the 1990s as automated systems began taking over the roles that humans used to perform. While central office, directory assistance, and switchboard operators continued to do their jobs, it was often in a background role as they monitored automated systems and stepped in if the system was malfunctioning or a caller experienced difficulty navigating it. They also intervened if a caller needed to interrupt a busy line in an emergency.  But the continued downsizing of phone companies and further introduction of machines that replaced working people prompted more reliance on unions like the CWA to support employment of real people and fair working conditions for them. The TTUU operators relied heavily on the ability of the CWA to grieve cases for them as they brought up issues against New York Telephone, Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, and other AT&T divisions over the years; 1984 and 1989 were especially notable for months-long strikes that involved public relations battles, fights with scabs, and long hours picketing as unionists fought for workers' rights.
In 2001 the TTUU Local 1112 underwent one more name change when the telephone operators merged with two other CWA groups: the Graduate Student Employees Union of the State University of New York (Local 1188) and telecommunications workers (Local 1104). By retaining their individual group infrastructures (committees, officers, etc.), each local was able to continue operating efficiently but with much better bargaining power following the merger. At this time the phone operators (Local 1112) and graduate student employees (Local 1188) dropped their old local numbers and joined the telecommunications workers under the "Local 1104" designation instead. 
As of 2010, the CWA boasted 1,200 chartered local unions in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is also affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF), and the Canadian Labour Congress. The phone operators remain very active within the union and are known for wearing red every Thursday as a sign of solidarity. 
The information provided above was gleaned from the following sources:
- Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries by the Telephone Operators Division, CWA Local 1104.
The collection is organized into the following series:
Series 1,2,4 and 6 are arranged alphabetically, except for Series 6: Subseries 2 and 3, which are arranged by case number. Series 3 and 5 are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically within each year. Series 7 is arranged by format.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2012 by Kerry Lynch and Jodi Boyle.
Telephone operators--New York (State)
Telephone companies--Employees--Labor unions--New York (State)
Strikes and lockouts--Telephone companies--New York (State)
Labor unions--New York (State)
Labor unions--Organizing--New York (State)
Contracts for work and labor--New York (State)
- Communications Workers of America--Operators Division
Communications Workers of America
American Telephone and Telegraph Company
- Upstate New York (N.Y.)