Unions of the Craft Industries
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Unions of the Craft Industries


Unions were a very important aspect of work within an Edinburgh printing house.  For a full list of print unions the following book is a valuable aid:

Marsh, A.  Smethurst, J.  (2006).  Historical Directory of Trade Unions.  Volume 5: including unions in printing, publishing, local government, retail and distribution, domestic services, general employment, financial services, agriculture.  Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.

This volume details the various amalgamations that occured within print unions.  Today all print unions come under one umbrella called UNITE which came into being in 2007 when AMICUS and the Transport and General Workers Union merged.  Prior to this the GPMU merged with AMICUS in 2004. 

However, the formal amalgamation of the National Graphical Association and SOGAT into the Graphical, Paper and Media Union: signalled the point when individual craft societies formed into an individual union.

In the 18th and 19th Century print unions were many, with each unions representing a different printing craft.  These included:

  • The Edinburgh Letterpress Printers Society, founded in 1758
  • Journeymen printers' of Edinburgh 1803 - 4
  • Journeymen booksellers of Edinburgh 1811
  • Edinburgh Typographical Society founded in 1836, which became part of the STA in 1876
  • General Typographical Association of Scotland 1836: At its height it took in 15 societies. 1844 absorbed into the National Typographical Association which collapsed in 1844
  • Edinburgh Electrotypers and Stereotypers Society 1892 became part of the Society of Electrotypers and Stereotypers of Great Britain and Ireland in 1893.  Address 1 Tarvit Street, Edinburgh.  1901 became a branch of the Federated Society. 1914 became the National Society of Electrotypers and Stereotypers.
  • Edinburgh press & machinemen's (letterpress printers) society: breakaway branch of the STA.  Formed because of the 1872 printers strike in which members felt that the STA had focused efforts on assisting compositors.  1908 lack of funds meant that they rejoined the STA.
  • National Graphical Association 1964.  Formed by an amalgamation of the Typographical Association and the London Typographical Association.  Joined by the Association of Correctors of the Press in 1965 and the National Union of Press Telegraphists in 1965.  1967 joined by the National Society of Electrotypers and Stereotypers.
  • Amalgamated Society of Lithographic artists.  Joined in 1979 by the National Union of wall coverings, decorative and allied trades.  In 1982 became the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic artists, designers, engravers and process workers (SLADE).  1990 joined with SOGAT to form GPMU.
  • National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants. 1889 formed as the printers labourers union.  1899 changed its name to Operative Printers Association.  1904 known as NATSOPA.  1911 membership 4,722.  1929 92 branches and membership of 29,000.  In 1966 merged with the National Union of Printing, bookbinding and Paperworkers to form the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades to form SOGAT.  1970 amalgamation dissolved and became the National Society of Operative Printers and Media personnel.  1972 took in the sign and display trade union.  1982 NATSOPA and SOGAT amalgamated to form SOGAT 82.
  • National Union of bookbinders and machine rulers 1911.  Amalgamated with the National Union of Print and Paper Workers to form the National Union of Printing, bookbinding and Printing, bookbinding and paperworkers.  1924 took in the Platen Printing Machine Minders Society and the London Society of Machine Rulers.  1960 150,000 members.  1962 took in monotype casters and typefounders society.  1963 joined by the Pattern Card Makers Society.  1966 merged with NATSOPA to form SOGAT.  Demerged in 1970 but retained name SOGAT.
  • Printing and Kindred Trades Federation 1890 / 1.  1892 12 unions were members. Aim was to represent constituent organisations on matters of common interest until February 1974 when it was replaced by a Printing Co-ordinating Committee.