What is a union bug, and is it still relevant today?

There is a long and important relationship between unions based on shared values and interests

Printing press die
JD ROSSETTI Minutman Press of Hazel Dell

The union label, or “bug” as it is commonly referred to, is a term that originates from the fact that a tiny logo is printed on a product and looks like a little insect or “bug.” It indicates that printed materials are completely union made during every step of the printing process. This is an exclusive symbol that designates that the item printed is backed by the quality and craftsmanship of a union company. But is the union label it still relevant today?

History of the union label

Printing became prevalent in the 19th century and early printing companies quickly unionized. It became important to distinguish printed materials from unionized companies with high labor standards and non-unionized groups that might have lower standards or working conditions. The earliest history of the union label was used to signify that the items produced were truly from exclusively union laborers produced by union labors specifically working on an eight-hour day as opposed to a 10-hour day by other, non-unionized workers. The union label became an easy way to signify which products were being made with quality, while still upholding good working conditions and living wages for laborers. The union label continued to gain notoriety and quickly became the standard by judging how, and how fairly, a product was made.

Union bug today

In modern times, unions have declined significantly in the printing industry, and only around 5-10% of current workers in printing and publishing are unionized. The way to know if the printed materials you receive are truly union made is when they have the official union bug printed on them. The bug will typically appear on a corner of a product, or at the bottom of a title page. It is illegal for businesses to use the union bug if they are not truly union printers. Non-union shops might try to advertise using the word “union,” but if they do not have the union label they do not have a labor contract with their employees. A union print shop usually has less turnover and more skilled labor. Many people want the union bug on their printed materials, and it is especially useful in political printing to show support and solidarity with organized labor. If working families are going to be supporting a candidate or campaign, the union bug is a great way to show the values and standards of unions in a simple symbol.

Five reasons TO use union printers

There are a lot of obvious reasons to use union printers. There is a long and important relationship between unions based on shared values and interests. While there are a lot of wonderful printers out there, union printers have the experience and expertise to get the jobs done right. So, here are the top five reasons to rely on union printing:

Capacity. Most union print shops have long-term experience and have evolved with the changes in the printing industry. They have the equipment and staff to get the work done.

Quality. Union printers take great pride in the work they produce, their name is literally on each piece, in the form of their union bug or label that identifies their union affiliation.

Turnaround. Union printers are experienced at direct mail, and they know the time sensitive nature of election-related direct mail. Not all printers have experience with political mail, but that’s never a concern with union printers.

Integrated capability. Union printers have had the longevity and foresight to keep up with the changes in the printing industry over the decades. They’ve embraced new technologies and can seamlessly move from print to mail to digital.

Worker treatment and pay. The cornerstone of union shops is that the employees are highly skilled and experienced, as well as paid a fair salary and benefits for their work. With union vendors, we are assured that the work is produced right here in America, by skilled American workers and we believe that’s good for everybody.

JD Rossetti is owner of Minuteman Press of Hazel Dell. He can be reached at Vancouver-North@MinutemanPress.com or at 360-892-7888.

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