COVID-19 and Rochester Labor
GCIU Local 503
Interview with Mike Stafford (President, Graphic Communications International Union Local 503), 20 May 2021
GCIU represents ten print shops in western New York, of which the largest is Hammer Packaging, with over three hundred members and currently fifty job openings. Other shops include Eagle Graphics, Artcraft Press, Midstate Printing, TM Design, Arnold Printing, and Professional Instant Press. GCIU also represents Cascades Containerboard Packaging, whose eighty-five employees manufacture custom corrugated boxes.
During the pandemic no shops closed, though there were some layoffs due to a considerable decline in demand for commercial and screen printing. Other shops, such as Hammer, which prints labels, and Cascades were particularly busy with orders that reflected the fact that consumers were eating at home and having more packages delivered rather than shopping at stores. In fact, Hammer paid workers an additional $2/hour during the pandemic (which they will recoup thanks to the relief act passed by Congress).
Employers attempted, not always successfully, to provide appropriate PPE. Facilities were cleaned more frequently and lunchroom schedules were staggered. The union continued to hold in-person staff meetings, though attendance was sketchy. Some members, including one GCIU staff person, contracted COVID.