Union Defender

Becky Moeller on being the first female president of the Texas AFL-CIO.
by Published on
Photo by Jen Reel

Becky Moeller is the first female president of the 220,000-member Texas AFL-CIO. Moeller has been active in unions for 35 years. She joined the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 6137 in Corpus Christi in 1967 and eventually became local president. She was president of the Coastal Bend Labor Council before becoming secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO in 2003, and president in 2007.

 

“I was a service representative at [Southwestern Bell Telephone Company] and joined the union in the first week. There were about six women in the office; all of them joined. … We were paid less then. In 1973, I wanted to become a communications consultant, a non-traditional job for women at the time. I filed a grievance to get the job.

“I joined [the union] because I felt we should have a voice in the workplace, and I had been an activist of sorts prior to beginning to work at Southwestern Bell [now AT&
T]. The members were a small number in a large office, but it was soon obvious to me that even the non-members benefited from the work of the job steward in the office as she advocated for better conditions and treatment. I joined, then became active in the union meetings, and elected a job steward within the first year of being a member of CWA 6137. I then held every office over the next 30 plus years in my local.

“The interest of workers to join unions is great in Texas, the challenges and hurdles are also great. Attitudes toward union organizing are not always supportive, depending on the community in Texas. The union story is not in textbooks, so we must do an education job as well as an organizing job. Fear in the workplace is real; fear of being fired is fed by anti-union law firms that assist employers. Captive audience meetings by the employer are common, and workers sometimes retreat.

“Collective bargaining is the great equalizer. As men have moved into what formerly were traditional women’s jobs and women have moved into what formerly was traditional men’s work, a union-employer contract equalizes the pay. Generally, a pay scale is adopted for a title or function, so the pay is the same whether you are male or female. My experience is also that collective bargaining has narrowed the pay difference between former ‘male’ jobs and former ‘female occupations.’ We continue to advocate for equal pay for equal work in the overall labor movement.”