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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

TYPOGRAPHICAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL NO. 53

TYPOGRAPHICAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL NO. 53

TYPOGRAPHICAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL NO. 53, the oldest existing trade union in Cleveland, received its charter on 26 July 1860 from the National Typographical Union (later renamed the Intl. Typographical Union--ITU). After an unsuccessful strike in 1865, it disbanded but was reorganized in 1868. The union concentrated on improving wages, working hours, and conditions of newspaper and commercial printers, who worked 12-to-14-hour days and were paid on a piece-system rate of $.30 per 1,000 ems of type. Through arbitration and strikes, the rate gradually increased to $.40 for the day shift and $.43 for the night shift. In 1892 the union won an 8-hour day for its newspaper printers and a flat weekly rate of $21 for the day shift and $24 for the night shift, amounts which had risen to $53.55 and $58.95 by 1928. The book-and-job branch of the industry also found its workday shortened from 10 hours in 1864 to 8 hours in 1905, and its wage rate raised from $9 per week in 1864 to $49 per week in 1929. As an active member of the ITU, Local 53 played host to the international conventions of 1863, 1912, 1947, and 1968, and 2 of its local members, Jas. Hoban and Jack Gill, were elected to office in the International.

As the 20th century progressed, the union provided financial assistance to its members through a loan fund and sickness and mortuary benefits. In 1917 Local 53 instituted pension benefits and was the first typographical local to own and operate its own apprentice training school, which opened in 1926. In 1928 it inaugurated its own newsletter, Typographical News. In 1985 the union merged with the Communications Workers Association, ending its 125-year history.


Intl. Typographical Union, Local No. 53 Records, WRHS.