Role of Technology in Shaping Printing Unions

Over the years, innovations in printing technology have played a pivotal role in the evolution of the industry, and have been instrumental in shaping printing unions as well.

In 1850 the very first printing union was formed: the New York Printer’s Union. This rapidly evolved into the more extensive International Typographical Union (ITU), a comprehensive labor union with members from all phases of the printing process. Over the next half century, many changes occurred in the industry as a result of technological advancements. The 1870s saw the beginning of the shift from lithographic to offset printing. With this and other technological advancements came increased job specialization, which in turn led to segregation into smaller trade unions. The International Printing Pressmen Union of North America (IPPU) and the International Brotherhood of Bookbinding (IBB) were formed in 1889 and 1892 respectively, and many others followed suit.

The changes to the industry didn’t stop there! The printing industry continued to evolve over the 20th century. Other production methods came into vogue, including screenprinting, flexography, and photocopying. The printing industry was brimming with new technology as well as innovations to existing technology, which eventually rendered some methods (such as lithography) obsolete.

Naturally, as the methods of production continued to evolve, so did the unions. Many splits and mergers occurred throughout the 20th century. In 2005, the shift to digital technology in the industry resulted in one last merger between the two largest unions in the industry; the Graphic Communications International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters joined forces once again to become the Graphic Communications Conference (GCC).

Benefits of a Union Print Shop

Union Print ShopBecause the employees of Wells Print & Digital Services are represented by a labor union, the company fits the distinction of a “union print shop.” The official union accreditation by the Allied Printing Trades Council allows printed pieces from Wells to be labeled with a “union bug” notifying others that the products was manufactured with responsible labor management. At Wells, however, the importance of the union runs much deeper than any outside certification or marketing technique.

Chris Vinson, the Operations Manager at Wells Print & Digital Services feels that the union representation of his employees promotes a much more efficient and productive working environment. Speaking at a small business leadership panel discussion, Vinson stated, “I get to manage people with respect, not out of fear. A lot of that is because of the union – they know they have a voice – they can approach me without fear of reprisal.” This open environment of communication and feedback allows the company to continually streamline their processes, resulting in high quality products, low costs, and efficient turnaround on projects.

There a plenty of reasons why someone might choose to go with a union print shop for their printed products. Some may choose one in solidarity with their labor community, while others may choose it to distinguish themselves as a socially conscious and aware purchaser. Whatever your reasoning, we here at Wells will continue to work in conjunction with the labor union because we believe that it provides us with valuable insight, a friendly atmosphere, and an ultimately a better product at a competitive price.


Look for the Union Label

There are plenty of reasons why someone might want their products to be produced by union workers. Solidarity, others may, and many simply believe in the skill and quality of a union employee. Regardless of your reasoning, the printing industry has a way of certifying when a product is produced by a union printing company.

Description of the Allied Printing Trades Council "Union Bug"

If you take some time to analyze a piece of printed material, you might happen to stumble upon what is commonly referred to as a “union bug.” While it may not always be prominently displayed, the union bug makes a huge statement about where that printing piece came from. Only companies that are recognized by the Allied Printing Trades Council are allowed to put this union label on their products. Using it without their permission is illegal.

When the Allied Printing Trades Council deems that a printing company practices responsible labor-management and gives its employees decent wages and benefits, they accredit that company under their label. Each printer in the Allied Printing Trades Council is given the right to use the “union bug” with their own personalized number so that each piece can be identified to a specific company.

So be sure to check out different printed products you might get your hands on (brochures, business cards, letterheads, booklets, etc) to see if it was produced with union labor. If it has an Allied Printing Trades Council label with a number 4 next to it, then you know it was made by the skilled union-represented employees at Wells Print & Digital Services!