Union Printers Make Great Political Direct Mail Campaigns

by Joe Fuld

Union Printing press

Union Printers and Union Printing - Why We Use Them.

Here at The Campaign Workshop (TCW), we work with union printers. Union printers are not only committed to providing a safe workplace and fair wages but also benefits to their employees. Without going into a massive labor history lesson, unions are really important both to the middle class in this country and the progressive movement; something we certainly can get behind at TCW! 

Why progressive candidates need to use union printers: With the decline in union membership and a reduction in union bargaining power, organizations like Fight for $15 are working to ensure workers are paid a living wage and given a union. In fact, if you’ve been watching the 2019 democratic primary debates, unions have been at the forefront of these discussions as they are critical to help support working American people. 

Thus, if you are a progressive candidate running for any level of office, it’s important that you use union printers. Union printing is something progressive groups and unions look for as a litmus test that a campaign supports progressive values and the wellbeing of hardworking Americans. So, if you’re interested in endorsements from groups and organizations, it’s important that you run a campaign that they can get behind; this includes the printing production process. 

Why should I use a union printer? In addition to fair wages and benefits, union printers invest in training for their staff. When you’re on a tight timeline right before Election Day, you want a trained professional who is accredited and paid fairly for their skills and knowledge at the helm to make sure your direct mail goes out on time and, more importantly, looks good! At the end of the day, it’s worth paying a few extra pennies to both ensure you meet your deadlines and your mail makes it to your constituent’s doors before they vote. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. 

How do you know if something is union printed? Look for a union bug on the printed material.  The union bug is usually at the bottom of the material, and that alone will tell you whether or not a piece is union printed. If the printed material does not have a bug, it likely was not printed by a union printer. 

What does a union bug mean? When it comes to union printers, the largest labor organization, printers union  – with councils throughout the United States and Canada – is known as the Allied Printing Trades Council. There are two unions that comprise this council: The Graphic Communications Conference (GCC) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). There are some smaller union organizations that have organized print shops, including the Painters and Allied Trades (most often seen in the making of signs, buttons, etc.), as well as independent unions located in geographic regions of the country. It is important to note that only print shops with their employees unionized by recognized union organizations or shops that have a valid union label license agreement are authorized to print the union printers’ bug on their pieces. 

In the printing industry, union printers place their union bug with their respective registry number on the pieces they print as an assurance of craftsmanship and quality. In short, the bug is a sign of union-approved working conditions. If you want to know where something was printed just go to Google and type in the union number and name, and it will tell you the name of the printer.

How do I find a union printer? At TCW, we use union printers across the country. If you need help managing your mailing and printing through a union printer, contact us. If you want to look for a union printer on your own, you can look at these websites to find allied printing union printers and teamster union printers:

What to look for in a union printer: There are all kinds of union printers, and you want to make sure you pick a printer that produces what you need, which is usually direct mail. You want to look at their site, ask for samples, evaluate the quality of their work, and, more importantly, ask questions: 

  • How much will it cost to print? 
  • Is gang printing (running different pieces at the same time) possible to reduce costs? 
  • What size print run do you need? 
  • How long does it take to print the product? 
  • What machines are they using to print? 
  • Where is mailing done? Is it in-house or at a separate location? 
  • How secure is the print facility? 
  • How is data processed? 

Check references: Don’t just use the same printer everyone uses. Once you get some names of union printers, make sure you check references. See who likes them and who does not. Also, please understand there has been a lot of consolidation in the printing industry, so a printer you had worked with in the past my not be there, or the staff may have changed due to a merger – just something to keep in mind. 

Should you work directly with a union printer? Printing can be complicated, so it’s important to understand what type of printing you are doing and whether or not it makes sense to work directly with a union printer or through a consultant. Both could be good options, but managing the print and mailing process yourself, especially for direct mail, may take more time than you have, so it might be worth getting this off of your plate. 

Don’t forget about the mail house: Printing is only part of the battle. If a piece of mail gets printed but never gets mailed, you have a big problem. Make sure you have a mail house. Some printers have a mail house as part of their company, while others partner with outside mail houses. Both in-house mail departments and partner mail houses can be very helpful to your campaign. Mail houses organize and household data, sort mail, and drop the mail at the post office sectional facility (SCF). 

What if I don’t want a union bug on my Mail? Even if our client is non-political, or running for office in a non-union friendly area, we often still use union printers. We just ask that the union bug be removed from the printed materials. 

Overall, there are a lot of benefits to using union printing. So, if you’re running for office and need something printed, show your support for the progressive movement by choosing a union printer. Have questions about union printers or union printing? Ask them below or contact us here!