Sector Creates Organizing Cooperative
Updated On: Oct 03, 2012
Patrick Scott of the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute instructs attendees of the PPMWS organizing training in Pittsburgh

The United Nations declared 2012 to be the "International Year of the Cooperative." Throughout the world, consumer cooperatives, credit unions, agricultural cooperatives, housing cooperatives and energy cooperatives have operated successfully for years. In fact, according to a 2012 report on business ownership, 40 percent of the U.S. population participates in cooperatives. 

In an effort to expand the power of the unionized printing sector in the U.S., the Printing Sector has cre- ated an “Organizing Cooperative.” The Cooperative will target its efforts in key cities to aggressively and cre- atively organize new members. The Cooperative will initially concentrate its efforts in Detroit, New York, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Unions are a natural fit for coop- eratives. Members direct unions and priorities are based on the needs and directives of membership.

“While an organizing cooperative isn’t the same as a credit union, there are similarities,” said Dan Wasser,

president of PPMWS. “We’re all taking ownership of our organizing needs, and we’ll all share in the gains we make.”

“Cooperatives are about justice, in many ways, social and economic jus- tice. They are self-help organizations. If the Sector wants to prosper and grow, aggressive organizing in key areas is the only way to go,” said Thomas Grenfell, president of Detroit Typographical #18.

The Sector began the year with a look into how it could best begin an aggres- sive organizing strategy with limited resources. The Sector has contributed well over $1 million to the CWA Strategic Industry Fund (SIF). Leaders looked into getting a SIF grant, but despite Sector members’ generous participation in the fund, the International has thus far refused our requests citing jurisdic- tional issues with the Newspaper Guild. The Guild is claiming that the Sector is encroaching on “their work.”

The Sector decided to push for- ward with its organizing plans despite TNG’s objections and in March, the PPMWS’s Laws and Finance Committee approved the creation of the Organizing Cooperative. PPMWS is using an over- funded segregated account to fund the work of the cooperative.

“We decided that the costs associated with undertaking a strong organizing plan were dwarfed by what it would cost us to sit on the sidelines,” said Wasser. “Our members deserve a strong voice, and there’s strength in  numbers.” 

With the assistance of President Wasser's Organizing Cooperative, the New York Typographical Union hired Kari Bienias to work with the Sector as the Administrative Organizing Coordinator in April. Bienias originally started as an organizer and brings a lot of organizing

experience to the Cooperative.
In June, the Cooperative held its first meeting with local lead- ers. Representatives from Pittsburgh Typographical Local #7, Pittsburgh Mailers M-22, Buffalo Mailers M-81, Buffalo-Niagara Typographical #9, New York Typographical #6, Detroit Typographical #18, and Sidney Typographical #81 attended. Staff Representatives Linda Morris- Cooley and Ron Miller also attend- ed. Representatives from the Chicago

Typographical #16 and Chicago Mailer M-2 weren’t able to attend. An outline of the Cooperative was presented and leaders provided feedback and ideas for instituting organizing programs within Sector Locals.

Following the collaboration, Patrick Scott, deputy director of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute, met with the Sector to help develop an organizing training geared specifically to the needs of the Printing Sector Cooperative. The group wanted to make sure that any organiz- ing focused not only on the Printing Sector’s traditionally represented fields, but that Sector organizing also had an expanded focus to the field of digital media.

In September, the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute conducted a three-day training with 30 PPMWS partici- pants in Pittsburgh.

“I think that the organizing train- ing energized and educated our mem- bership,” said Sector Administrative Organizing Coordinator Kari Bienias. “The training provided a forum for an exchange of ideas and it allowed for our activists to provide insight into bridg- ing generation gaps in our organizing and appealing to future workers in our industries.”

“I think it will help us organize our Sector going forward.”

Training participants talked about how technology is shaping and chang- ing the Printing Sector.

“We have to broaden the scope of our organizing targets,” said Bienias.

Bienias pointed out how the Sector’s traditional workflow has evolved.

“Our industry used to encompass strictly commercial and newspaper printing, but now we need to focus on web designers, information tech- nologists, graphic designers, people in desktop publishing and other forms of new media. We also need to renew our commitment to organizing other computer and information technology professionals ... People who are in pro- gramming, administration, and devel- opment. They’re part of the history of our industry. Now a lot of that work has gotten outsourced and we need to follow that work,” said Bienias.

Recruits that participated in the orga- nizing training are being deployed throughout the Sector’s chosen target areas. Right now, the organizers are working in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo and New York. 

PPMWS represents over 8,000 workers in a diverse range of occupations in daily newspapers, commercial printing and mailing operations, graphic design, specialty manufacturing, publishing and distribution as well as the U. S. Government Printing Office. Our union combines the proud heritage of the International Typographical Union-the oldest continuously operating union in America-with the dynamic vision of the Communications Workers of America. The combination of these two influences provides our members and their families with responsive representation and progressive programs.

Communications Workers of America


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Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-281-7268 PPMWS Main Phone Number
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412-281-7845 Office of the President
Marcia Mikesell, Administrative Secretary
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