Customer Demand for Unionized Printing Companies Still Remains Strong
While not as powerful as it once was, the United Auto Workers is a staple of the Motor City. Inland Press benefits from jobs needed by the Democratic party, governmental units, health care and insurance clientele—all of whom seek the union label.
During the last 10 years, Thompson says his company has become more of a strategic partner with the unions. He consults with them on heavy iron purchasing decisions as it impacts staffing, and Thompson is pleased with the strong relationship that's been cultivated with the union.
"We've been unionized for about 100 years, so my perspective is a little different," Thompson notes. "The union hasn't really restricted me in what I can do. We've brought in new technology, and they have not been problematic to that. I think their leadership gets it, that the better we do, the better they're gonna do. Being an obstructionist is not a way for us to do well.
"Their enlightenment and real dedication to maintaining and saving jobs is important. Twenty-plus years ago, that was much less likely. They would take a philosophical position, come hell or high water, and if it cost jobs, then it cost jobs."
Inland is a bit different than most union shops. For one, it is a dba of the Detroit Legal News, publishing legal newspapers and performing legal notice work. That provides a base of work for the printer. Plus, Inland is publicly held, which has financial reporting and capex ramifications.
Thompson adds that Inland is debt-free. "Banks are not a printer's friend these days."
Another longstanding union printer still enjoying success through adverse economic conditions is Burton & Mayer, of Menomonee Falls, WI. It is a national provider to more than 1,000 customers, from retailers to publishers (catalogs, magazines, books and directories) and health care.