BOSTON – Stephen White of Silver Spring said he was fired from his job as a line technician at Comcast Corp. in March while trying to organize a union. Thursday night, he shared a stage at the Democratic National Convention with AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.
White’s work on behalf of the Communications Workers of America caught the attention of the AFL-CIO, and he was invited to be one of three workers to join Sweeney during his convention address.
“When workers try to join together in unions to lift themselves up, too often they are harassed, intimidated – even fired – by companies that ignore our laws and trample our American values,” Sweeney told the packed Fleet Center crowd.
Sweeney, who lives in Bethesda and is part of the Maryland delegation, said this year’s presidential election is a choice between two very different economies.
“An historic choice has been placed on the doorstep of our democracy,” he said. “It is a choice between an economy that rewards only the wealthy and the largest corporations, or an economy that rewards the people who do the work.”
White, 49, did not speak at the convention, but he did address the Maryland delegation with Sweeney at the state’s breakfast meeting Thursday.
He said the experience of being fired changed him. “Ever since it happened, I’ve become an advocate for workers right,” White said in an interview before his convention appearance.
The CWA and Comcast have had several clashes in the past year, and a union-funded study released last month criticized the company’s negotiating tactics.
Tim Fitzpatrick, a Comcast spokesman at the company’s Philadelphia headquarters, declined to comment on Sweeney’s speech, but in the past company officials have defended their relationships with their workers, including those in unions.
White said he was excited about the chance to bring his “mission” to an audience of more than 4,000 delegates, not to mention C-SPAN viewers nationwide. “I take every chance I get to bring attention to what happens when people like me try to organize,” he said.