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Union Sign Shops? Strikes? Whats the difference?

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by Texas_Signmaker, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Sorry, I posted the original thread in the wrong area and anyone outside of First Class couldn't post... Now it's open to all you in Coach.

    Me being in the south, we don't have unions here... But I've heard of "Union Shops". What is a union shop? Is it a small sign shop who's employees formed a union? Do they or would they strike like GM? Whats the difference in a union shop VS regular shop? Aren't union shops at a disadvantage?
     
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  2. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    My paternal grandmother was in a teacher's union in Texas. My father-in-law is in a union for a plant that he works at on the TN/AL line. They do exist here, just not as widespread.

    Depends on what you define as small. X amount of employees or only one location versus several state wide or nationwide locations.


    The one that my father-in-law is in did. I think the potential is always there with unions, if they do or do not, depends on the leverage that they have (I'm speculating here).

    In a nutshell....more rules. More conditions needing to be met etc. Gross simplification mind you.

    All depends. Sometimes being in a group, leveraging the numbers can work in your benefit. Sometimes it really just placates the higher ups and the little ones get screwed.

    Like with everything, it all depends.
     
  3. fozzie

    fozzie Member

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    we're in illinois. i know alot of screen printers who do political signs are supposed to be union and have the "union bug" on the signs. not sure how it works though in our "corrupt" state though.

    seems you can somehow do them in house and "pay" a union in ohio to use their union mark on the signs. know of a big screen printer in our area who is not union but prints political signs
    with a union bug on them from a Cincinnati Ohio local.
     
  4. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    There used to be a sign painters union. I learned signs in a shop where the owner's father had been a journeyman sign painter out of Kansas City. In those days the union was where you learned to hand letter and were tested to prove your ability. In other shops you learned about neon and electrical stuff, or learned the construction of such signs. That kind of union, which is where people learn a trade and learn to do it correctly, is one I could get behind. But as far as I know it's long gone, and we have people learning the trade from YouTube and forums.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

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    Right now the GM UAW in Tonawanda and Rockport (GM sites surrounding Buffalo) are on strike. About 3,000 employees. The Union pays them #250 a week and they still have health insurance while on strike.
     
  6. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    We do a bit of work for some unions around me, they have a sign supplier they are supposed to use who is unionized, however they take 6-8 weeks to make a banner, so they try not to use them if possible.
     
    • OMG / Wow! OMG / Wow! x 1
  7. Andy D

    Andy D Very Active Member

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    Funny & true story, a large electrical sign company I used to work for had several plants & the one I worked at in Nashville was union.
    How it came to be union was because the owner was having issues getting his non-union made signs installed up north and (I think, this all happened years before I started) he lost bids
    for unionized corporations, he decided to go out and shop for a union, and brought them in so he could put a "Union Made" lettering on those signs.
     
  8. Category5

    Category5 Member

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    My experience with unions is they’re next in line behind Uncle Sam to collect their cut from your check come payday, and when you need them, they disappear faster than a lawyer with dirt on the Clintons.
     
    • Disagree Disagree x 2
    • Hilarious! Hilarious! x 1
  9. Rocco G

    Rocco G Member

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    First, I'm not going to get into the whole pro-union and anti-union debate. I'm just saying what goes on in my area.

    Yes, union sign shops do exist but are mainly in the northeast part of the USA afaik. Here in the Philadelphia area there are actually two sign unions, the sheet metal workers (local 19) and the electrical workers (local 98). Phila has been a union town since colonial times BTW. Independence hall is very close to the old Carpenters hall in the Olde City section of Philly. Philadelphia Sign Co. (actually in Palmyra NJ now) has about 300 employees and most are members of a union. No I don't work for them. NYC is another big union city. I can't speak for other areas.

    While there is an "apprenticeship" program here (at least with the sheet metal workers) I can't really say that it preps you to do more than sheet metal work or install signs. The first year of nighttime classes is almost exclusively devoted to welding. The union members I know are mainly in the installation end of things, though the fabrication guys at Phila signs are union as well. If nothing else, they get good health care benefits. Plus the union will foot the bill for the crane operators license classes and a few similar things.

    Oh, and the union dues (at least in Phila) are pretty reasonable at about $40/month with the sheet metal workers. Up in NYC, that's a completely different matter where the dues are more like $13,000 (yes thirteen thousand) a year. The employer pays that along with the pay rate in the $65/hr range. It costs a fortune to install signs in a union situation in NYC but then it's a very expensive town to begin with.
     
  10. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    In my area (Central Illinois) most national corporate accounts and all government projects require that you use union labor or pay "Prevailing Wage." That is essentially modeled on union scale pay, including most of the benefits.

    That means that it costs around $65 - $75.00 an hour to put an installer in the field (including pay, benefits, payroll tax, general liability and workers comp). The insurance bill is a few dollars less for in-house workers, so a shop worker costs about $55.00 - $60.00 an hour. In contrast, a non-union shop can pay an installer $30.00/hr, making the cost to field that installer (pay, payroll tax, workers comp, general liability) closer to $40.00 - $45.00 an hour. A $20.00/hr shop employee, with lower insurance premiums, will cost between $25 - $30 an hour.

    The client pays about double for union shop labor. Businesses that do not have a requirement to hire union labor or pay prevailing wage will usually hire a non-union shop. National corporations, government related jobs, and union supporters must use the union shops. Either model can be profitable if run right. Many union shops specialize in installation and maintenance, and most creative shops and small retail shops are non-union. Of course, many shops learn how to finagle the rules, but in the end the liability is just not worth the risk. Twenty years ago you could get away with a lot; in today's Information age you will likely get caught cheating.

    It can be tough finding a union sign job. The pay is much better, the benfits are usually very good, and you have the protection of the union. You generally need to know somebody, or work your way into the business by going through the union apprentice process, getting your name out, and waiting for an opening. Non-union jobs are easier to find, and usually require a broader skill set and more knowledge of the sign business. Many excellent fabricators and installers cannot get into the union for a variety of reasons, and can negotiate a reasonable deal (but you will seldom get a pay package that comes anywhere close to what you can get through the union).
     
  11. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    There are licensing provisions for printers of all kinds to purchase a short term license and the "permission" to place the union bug on printed materials. At one time, most of the employees in print shops had to belong to a union to print the bug, but with under 7% of the U.S. workforce being in unions, it's obvious why accommodations have been made.
     
  12. Rob G Momentum

    Rob G Momentum New Member

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    Rocco,

    I actually have a couple of projects I'm working on in Philly and NYC. We usually fab and source the installs. Do you have any insights on what challenges I might run across considering the unions?
     
  13. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Rob, are you a union shop or will you subs be union ??
     
  14. Rob G Momentum

    Rob G Momentum New Member

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    No I'm not union I'm in Texas. This is my first foray into union territory.
     
  15. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Doesn't matter where YOU are from, it's all about where the work is being done. If the building, complex or whatever is union, you won't be allowed on the premises..... to do any work, surveys or anything related to your job. You can't even take pictures. If the place has union people working there, you won't be allowed in the place. If there are union people there conducting work, you will not be allowed in the place. If you try, they will walk off the job and that will create quite a problem. The unions aren't what they used to be, but they're still quite powerful.

    If you walk into a unionized building, you can't even plug an extension cord in the wall. You'll be in violation and be slapped with fines and lawsuits.
     
  16. Rob G Momentum

    Rob G Momentum New Member

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    That is what I was figuring. What about fabrication? Do you have any shops up there that you would recommend. I know both locations are in union areas.
     
  17. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Most likely, a union shop will not accept non-union products. The place itself, might not accept the non-union products in there building, either. It's hard to do, when you are so far away. They'll nickel and dime you to death and in the end, they'll deny you anyway. You'd be better off finding a union shop to fab and instal the signs, unless you're very close with the customer. It's a little hard landing a job with a place which requires all union stuff. How'd you get it, in the first place ??
     
  18. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Gez, sounds like the tactics of the union and the mob are very similar
     
  19. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Well, there is Jimmy Hoffa after all.
     
  20. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Quite simply, they are one in the same. Tactics, mentality and personal efforts are selfish by nature.
     
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