Skip to main content

Ex-CWA Chief Morton Bahr Dies

Morton (Morty) Bahr, 93, former head of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) who took the union from the telegraph to the internet age, died July 30, according to the union.

Bahr (shown on a picket line above, front and center) was president for two decades beginning in 1985, but had been a member of the union since 1951. He joined as a telegraph operator, where he was a leader in the union organizing movement at MacKay Radio & Telegraph.

Bahr oversaw education and training programs, negotiated then-innovative benefits like child care and flexible schedules, and created "electronic" picket lines as the union grew and changed to meet a changing communications marketplace.

At a House hearing on child care in 1988, Bahr talked about women being the workforce of tomorrow and said that securing the future of that workforce meant recognizing the family as a priority, and the often wrenching decision of keeping a job and caring for a family. "This simply is wrong," he said.

As VP of the union's New York-New Jersey District 1, he led a 218-day strike against New York Telephone (now Verizon) and with AT&T in 1974. Barr, who had to leave college early, had a passion for continuing education and distance learning. He received a bachelor's degree at age 57. The Morton Bahr Distance Learning Scholarship was established at SUNY Empire State College.

Bahr presided over the union's growth as it incorporated the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, the International Union of Electronic Workers, the Newspaper Guild, the International Typographical Union, and the Association of Flight Attendants.

Bahr was born in Brooklyn in 1926 and was a radio operator in the Merchant Marines in World War II.

After he retired in 2005, he was on the board of the National Housing Partnership Foundation.

Survivors include his wife, Florence; son, Dan; and daughter, Janice.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.