What in the world is a union bug? This label, or “bug” as it is commonly referred to, indicates that printed materials are completely union made during every step of the process. This is an exclusive symbol that indicates that the item printed is backed by the quality and craftsmanship of a union company. It is thought that the term “union bug” comes from the fact that the tiny union stamp on a product looks like a little insect. But does this stamp really matter, and is it still important? The answer to both is, Yes!

History of the Union Bug

Printing really took off in the 19th century, and some of these early printing companies quickly unionized. Being able to distinguish printed materials from these unionized companies from printed materials from non-unionized groups that might have lower standards or working conditions became important. The idea of a union label, to signify that the items produced were truly from exclusively union laborers, seems to have originated with the Carpenter’s Eight-Hour League in San Francisco. This league started using a stamp to signify products that were produced by men working on an eight hour day as opposed to a ten hour day by other, non-unionized, workers. This was an easy way to signify which products were being made with quality, while still upholding good working conditions and pay for the laborers. There was a similar label around that same time called a “white labor” label that was put on cigars made by unionized employees, to differentiate them from non-union, poorly paid Chinese workers. The union label became the standard by judging how, and how fairly, a product was made. Some shops might claim to have union standards, but unless their products bear the union bug, they are not truly certified as 100% union made. The union bug signifies quality and good workmanship and is a sign that the product you are buying is from a company you can trust. It is a prestigious badge put on products to not only show their union roots, but hopefully to attract more members to unions.

Union Bug Today

Unions have declined significantly in the printing industry, and only around 5-10% of current workers in printing and publishing are unionized. The only way to know if the printed materials you have are truly union-made is when they have the official union bug. The bug will appear usually on a corner of a product, or at the bottom of a title page. The most common bug today is that of the Allied Printing Trades.

Union Printing

This is Record Printing’s own union bug, and on it you will find some important information. The lower ring shows either a city or a geographic area, in this case Mascoutah, IL. This is where the unionized shop is located, and the number to the right is the number that was assigned to to the shop when it was first opened; this number permanently stays with the company. You can also see the registered trademark symbol on the left; 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 bug they do not have a labor contract with their employees. A union printing 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. If working families are going to be supporting your campaign, the union bug is a great way to show the values and standards of unions in a simple symbol.

As you can see, the union bug may not be used as frequently as it once was, but it still holds prestige and stands for quality. Only 5-8% of printers in the country can do this kind of printing, and Record Printing is proud to bear the union bug. For any political printing, including signs, flyers or postcards, the union bug is a small image that speaks volumes. If you are wanting the stamp of 100% union made work on your printed materials, request a quote today!