Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Communications Workers of America Records, 1850-1988
- Albany Typographical Union No. 4 (Albany, N.Y.)
- This collection documents the activities of the Albany Typographical Union, the first labor union founded in Albany, N.Y.
- 27 reels of microfilm
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Communications Workers of America Records, 1850-1988. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 Records).
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- Scope and Content:
The Albany Typographical Union, which was the first labor union founded in Albany, N.Y., kept an almost complete set of its minutes from its beginnings in 1850. These minutes are the major record series of this manuscript collection. The only gap is one from 1855 to 1874. Since the union was basically inactive from 1854 to 1860, minutes do not exist for these years. And the minutes for 1860 through 1874 probably filled a single minute book. The completeness of its records is one of the most significant aspects of the union's records, showing the development of the union over 140 years.
The strategies and goals of an early union are delineated in the records of this union, as are the successes and failures the union faced as it tried to attain those goals. The relationship between the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 and management is varied: some employers were quite helpful to the union, and other employers worked against any organizing of its work force. For related records, see the records of the Fulton County Typographical Union, No. 268, 1894-1963; the Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896, 1927-67; the Graphic Communications International Union, Local 10-B, 1907-89; and the Graphic Communications International Union, Local 259-M, 1941-88. All of these were unions in the printing trades that had contact with the Albany Typographical Union.
- Biographical / Historical:
The earliest precursor to the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 was the Albany Typographical Society, which was founded on March 3, 1829. This organization, however, was more of a fraternal or professional organization than a labor union. The Albany Typographical Society continued at least until 1832.[Historical Souvenir and First Year-Book of Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Half Century Number, January 1905. Edited and compiled by Charles H. Whittemore. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1905, pp. 17 and 19.]
On May 23, 1850, printers from the city of Albany met in the Clinton Hotel to discuss the establishment of a typographical association. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and by-laws. Three days later the constitution and by-laws of the Printers' Union of the City of Albany were unanimously adopted. The committee had decided against forming a benefit society and counseled in favor of a union. That day, 54 people signed the first constitution which stated that the "objects of this Union shall be the maintenance of a fair rate of wages, the encouragement of good workmen, and to use every means which may tend to the elevation of printers in the scale of social life."[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, 1850.] The election of officers was held on June 1, 1850, and this is the date the union marks as its date of founding.
From its founding, the union struggled with many problems facing its members. In 1850, printers worked 54- and 60-hour weeks, and reducing the work week to 40 hours was a goal that the union strove toward for decades. In the early 1850's, the printers complained about the hiring of "two-thirders," young men paid two-thirds the going rate. The hiring of these men undermined the union's expressed payment scales. Early in its history and especially in the 1870's, the union fought for control to determine the number of apprentices allowed per journeyman, as a means of regulating the profession.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, November 27, 1875.]
In 1854, the Albany Printers' Union joined the National Typographical Union, thereby changing its name to the Albany Typographical Union No. 4.["Seventy Years' Record: Officers of Albany Typographical Union No. 4 From June 1, 1850, to July 31, 1921." In Official Souvenir Book: Albany Typographical Union No. 4 Commemorating the Sixty-Fifth Session of the International Typographical Union and the Seventieth Anniversary of A.T.U. Number 4. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1920.] The Albany Typographical Union became inactive that year and did not resume regular activity until it rejoined the National Typographical Union (NTU) in 1860. NTU, itself organized only in 1852, changed its name to the International Typographical Union with the addition of Canadian locals in 1869.[Labor Unions (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions), Gary M. Fink, ed. Greenwood Press: Westport, Conn., 1977, p. 404.]
The Albany Typographical Union No. 4 was founded with the notion that strikes should be avoided if at all possible, but by 1878 the union began its first strike. The firm of Weed, Parsons & Co. was not complying with the union's apprentice rules, and Mr. Parsons would not even discuss the matter with the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, January 21, 1878.]] A strike committee was formed to design strategy. Some members of the union continued to work at Weed, Parsons, and were expelled from the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, February 23, 1878.] By October, the union had accepted its loss and voted to excuse dues of former Weed, Parsons, employees "until they obtain employment."[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, October 26, 1878.] Weed, Parson & Co. appears again and again in the minutes of the union from the 1800's. It was a difficult shop to reorganize and was the least friendly towards the union. The Albany Typographical Union had a number of strikes over different types of disputes: price reduction for composition in 1882, the eight-hour day in 1906, and unfair bargaining in 1928. Ironically, on the 100th anniversary of its founding as a union opposed to strikes, the union voted to strike the Albany Times Union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, June 16, 1950.]
The Albany Typographical Union No. 4 has changed the composition of its membership over the years. At first, the union included all printers in the city of Albany, but pressmen were not accepted as full members until 1851.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, March 29, 1851.] Early in its existence, the Albany Printers' Union tried to organize printers in Troy with no success, and it was not until 1860 that the Troy Typographical Union was founded.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, June 26, 1852.] As early as 1879, the union discussed whether pressmen should withdraw from the union.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, March 2, 1879. ] The Albany Printing Pressmen's Union appears to have originally consisted of pressmen who had broken away from Local 4.[Historical Souvenir and First Year-Book of Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Half Century Number, January 1905. Edited and compiled by Charles H. Whittemore. Albany, N.Y.: J. B. Lyon Co., Printers, 1905, p. 29.]
On February 6, 1886, the Albany pressmen were chartered as a separate local of the ITU. [Elizabeth Faulkner Baker. Printer and Technology: A History of the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union. Columbia University Press: New York, 1957, p. 71. And Albany Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union No. 23. "Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of Order," 1954.] By 1890, however, the local had broken away from the ITU to become one of the founding members of the International Printing Pressmen's Union of North America.[Albany Printing Pressmen and Assistants' Union No. 23. "Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of Order," 1954.] Although there appears to be no documentation of this, bookbinders were thought to have originally been part of the Albany Typographical Union until they split off to form the Book-binders Society of Albany, International Brotherhood of Bookbinders, Local Union No. 10, in 1892. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Albany Typographical Union has merged with a number of locals over a broad geographical area: the Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896 in 1966, the Troy Typographical Union No. 52 in 1978, and the Poughkeepsie Typographical Union No. 315 in 1987.
The internal structure of the Albany Typographical Union was quite sophisticated. Even from its earliest moments, the union operated extensively by committee. It was a committee that first put together the proposal for the union, and Albany Typographical Union has been using that system ever since. When the union went on strike, a strike committee was always formed. Scale committees studied the question of scale in the trade. In the 1870's, many members of the union were brought up on constitutional charges related to working below scale, conduct unbecoming a member, etc., and these charges were presented and argued before committees. The union formed an executive committee to replace all other committees in 1878. This committee had the responsibility to hear grievances, make decisions about members of the union, and "to transact the business of the Union between meetings," but soon subcommittees and eventually other specialized committees were also instituted.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Minutes, February 27, 1879.] Standing committees included those for finance, business, and room, but the number and types of committees were always in flux.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, Article, VI, 1869.]
The Albany Typographical Union was also divided into chapels, one for each shop in which the union had members. Each chapel elected a chairman once a year who was responsible for the members in that chapel, who upheld the union's laws, and who informed the members of upcoming meetings.[Albany Typographical Union No. 4, Constitution, Article, VII, 1910.] Occasionally, there were disagreements between individual chapels and the local union, which were customarily brought up before the executive committee for resolution.
In 1988, the International Typographical Union (ITU) merged with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), with the former ITU operating as an autonomous sector of CWA. This development was the first significant step the ITU had made to bringing organized labor "closer to the creation of one huge union in the printing and electronic communications industry."[ McMichen, Robert S., Billy J. Austin and Bill Boardman. "Stepping Into the Future With CWA." Typographical Journal, Vol. 189, No. 2, Aug. 1, 1986, p. 2.] This huge union is conceived to eventually encompass locals currently affiliated with the Graphic Communications International Union and the Newspaper Guild. As communications conglomerates have expanded in size, many unionists have felt that the unions whose members work for these must also be large and sophisticated. Currently, the Albany Typographical Union No. 4 remains an autonomous local representing workers in the typographical trade, but the CWA encourages consolidation at the local level.
- Acquisition information:
Albany Typographical Union No. 4 allowed its original records to be microfilmed by the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives. After microfilming, the originals were returned.1988-1989
- Processing information:
Processed in 1990 by Geoffrey A. Huth.