By Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON – Claude Cummings, Jr. was born and raised in Houston’s Kashmere Gardens. Since as early as he can remember, he has leant his voice to the community, Corporate America and the political world. For decades he has served as a conscious servant, who rightfully detests the ills, discriminations and prejudices prevalent within the workforce by serving as a union leader. He has also made a name for himself in the gospel industry through his nationally recognized quartet group, Endurance.
Recently, Cummings was re-elected to lead the Communication Workers of America (CWA) in District 6 as Vice President, at the CWA Convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada. In past, Cummings has served as an At-Large member of the Executive Board of CWA since 2007, was elected Vice President of District 6 in July 2011 and re-elected in July 2015 representing workers in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Furthermore, he has been appointed to lead the Human Rights department for the National CWA. In addition, Vice President Cummings has been elected as 2nd Vice President of the Houston NAACP, while also serving as an At-Large member of the CBTU and APRI Executive Boards.
Prior to his election to District 6 Vice President Cummings was President of CWA Local 6222 representing more than 4,000 members. He was first elected President of the Local in 1999; previously serving as Vice President and held other leadership positions in the local.
Cummings first joined Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) on August 20, 1973 located at 1401 Jefferson Street, Houston. During his initial employment with AT&T, he worked as a Frame Attendant and Communications Technician, maintaining systems for NASA, among other corporate customers. His initiation into leadership in the local union began as a result of him protesting racial injustices and discriminations against minorities and women working in Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.
A constant leading voice in local and state politics, Vice President Cummings worked for passage of a state law to enable AT&T to provide video services to its customers. It was a task that could only be done through legislation. Cummings took on the challenge and went to Austin and lobbied with then-State Representative Sylvester Turner, then-Senator Rodney Ellis and other African-American legislators. Collectively they were able to get the bill passed.
Over the years, Vice President Cummings has held numerous leadership positions in other local and national organizations. He has also served as a delegate to past Democratic National Conventions. He is a longtime community activist, supporting and directing civil rights efforts in the region, United Way contribution drives, community religious events and other community and civic campaigns.
Vice President Cummings is an active and instrumental part of his son’s church, He Heard My Cry Fellowship in Houston. He has also served in various leadership positions at the Fifth Ward Missionary Baptist Church as Chairman of the Deacon Board; President of the Choir and Youth departments; leading Sunday School, Brotherhood and the Male Chorus. All of which have played a vital role in contributing to enhance the leadership qualities and capabilities he utilizes in his professional career.
He is the proud father of one son, Pastor Claude, III; two daughters, Kenyetta and Katrina; and eight other grandchildren, Laura, Ale`ycia, Yuri, Deiondre, Brianna, Jillian, Claire and Laila. He attributes his success to God and his wife Ruth, who he met during his college years at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, over 47 years ago.
Having served as union leader and District Vice President, Cummings says, “The joy of my job is being able to help people – especially young Black people. I get asked all the time, when am I going to retire and I tell them, ‘I’m going to retire when I get to the point where I feel like I don’t want to help people anymore.’ Further, he believes “Unions are the last line of defense for the middle-class… When one percent of the people in a country own the wealth, at what point will the 99 percent wake up and say, ‘enough is enough.’”
Photo credit: Beth Allen