Pittsburgh Typographical Union #7/CWA 14827 can trace its history back to 1836 and is currently the oldest continuously functioning Union in the city of Pittsburgh.
The International Typographical Union (ITU) was a labor union founded on May 3, 1852 as the National Typographical Union. Typographers from Pittsburgh were among the 14 represented in this founding group and after a random draw for the 14 Local numbers, was assigned the #7 as the official Local designation. At 1869 convention, the union, which now included members organized in Canada—changed its name to the International Typographical Union. After years of computerization of the trade, and in order to provide better representation and security for the ITU, the membership, including Typo #7, voted to merge with the Communication Workers of America, creating the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers sector which exist to this day. At that time of the merger, the ITU was the oldest surviving trade union in the United States
The nature of the printing industry provided printers with great economic strength. Newspapers existed in virtually every major urban center in every section of the U.S.. and Canada, and with them came the typographers' union. Typographers, or “printers” as they were commonly referred to, were educated and economically mobile, which enabled them to influence the political process more readily than blue-collar workers could. Traveling cards were issued to journeymen printers and enabled them to travel to any city and claim work in their trade in any ITU shop
In 1897 the ITU won the best working conditions in the American publishing industry—a 48-hour work week and a standard wage scale for all printers in the city. During the Great Depression, the ITU introduced the 40-hour work week across the industry at no cost to employers as a way to share the fewer jobs available. That ITU initiative spread to other unions and has since been applied to all workers in America by federal legislation establishing the 40-hour work week. The clock at the Union Printers Home was stopped at 8:00 to commemorate this achievement and still remains that way.
The ITU is also a progressive union and has sought to eradicate discrimination on the basis of race or sex. Women were permitted to join the union in 1869, making the ITU one of the first unions to admit female members. The ITU Book of Laws would be amended many times, yet it was as members called it "ITU Law." Each union shop was a "Chapel" and the shop steward was the "Chapel Chairman." All apprentices and journeymen had to have working cards showing paid union dues. ITU Law dictated that dues, which were proportionate to the amount of work done in the chapel, had to be paid If the Union dues were not paid, the member was not allowed to work until their payment.
The ITU is notable for its long history of democracy. All contracts are approved by a majority of the membership through a ratification vote. For most of its history, the ITU benefited from friendly and strong competition between two distinct factions of printers, Independents and Progressives for control of the union. This mirrors the two party system America currently has with the Democratic and Republican parties. This commitment to a democratic Union resulted in part to Pgh Typographical Union #7 having only 3 Presidents since 1932, John Fiegal, Jim Lowen starting in 1975 and current President Don McConnell since 2001. Through this consistency in leadership Typo #7 has maintained strength in bargaining for members despite a reduction in overall membership.
In the tradition of the ITU, Typo #7 was, and still is, a union with members involved in many aspects of the printing trade. Prepress, mailroom, sales, finance, pressroom, web design, art and clerical workers are all represented by Typo #7. Typo #7 maintains membership in the Allegheny County Labor Council with delegates and retains both Vice President and trustee positions on the ACLC Executive Board. Additionally, the Typo 7 president heads the Allied Printing Trades Council in Pittsburgh enforcing use of the Allied Label and insuring that all work with the “Bug” as it is referred to, is created and published by Union members. In 1992, the Newspapers Unity Council was formed to address negotiations between the Pittsburgh Press and the 11 Unions representing workers at that facility. Typo 7 retains a chair position on that council with the IBT and TNG and, although the Press no longer exists, the Council still exists today to negotiate contracts for all union workers at the subsequent paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To further strengthen the Local, Since 2010, Typo #7 has sought mergers with interested PPMWS locals. This gives smaller Locals security and a level of representation they may not have had before and with the larger Local that is now possible, provides economic stability and a reduction in duplicated efforts. Typo #7 now has members working in 8 newspapers and 35 print shops in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia as a result of mergers with smaller Locals. This concept strengthens Typo 7 as well as the merger partner and allows the Local to serve its main goal of representing the membership. As a result of the increase of jurisdiction through the mergers, Typo #7 has been able to participate in the organizing cooperative developed by the PPMWS and is aggressively looking give a voice in the workplace to unorganized workers in the larger jurisdictional area created by the mergers.