SWICLC’s Bill Thurston tracks down bogus printer’s bug

HARD EVIDENCE: Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council President Bill Thurston shows a printout of the faked union bug. – Labor Tribune photo
HARD EVIDENCE: Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council President Bill Thurston shows a printout of the faked union bug. – Labor Tribune photo


Illinois Correspondent

Belleville – If your plans include trying to run a non-union printing business using a faked union bug, you’d better steer clear of St. Clair County.

Bill Thurston, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, is hot on the trail of a company that seems to have sold 405,000 envelopes with fake printer’s bugs to the county government.

The “bug” is that little oval on all union printing that, upon close inspection, reveals the shop and the union that did the printing, using an ID number. It is supposed to assure customers that the print job is a genuine piece of union work.

A local union printer contacted Thurston last month to alert him about the envelopes. They are printed with the county name and address in blue, with the bug just below it to make it look like a union printing job.

Thurston described his sleuthing efforts to the Council.


“I’m telling you, I have researched this top to bottom, all the way as far as it will go, and we’ve even done some IRS research on them,” he said.

The bug portends to be that of an independent union label out of Milwaukee, and includes the words “U.S. Department of Labor registered,” and the usual identification number

“We tracked it down. The number does not exist – and the union does not exist!” Thurston said.


Thurston first began hearing concerns about possible false union print jobs last summer, so he was ready to pursue the matter when the local union printer came to him last month.

The county purchasing department ordered the envelopes from a local union shop, which in turn farmed out the work to the supposed company in Milwaukee, apparently not knowing it wasn’t a true union shop.

The Milwaukee firm even had the local printer stay overnight at a hotel and visit its “facilities” to show it was for real.

But he must have seen something else, Thurston said.

“According to the IRS report, they have no money, they generate no money and they have no property,” Thurston said.

John Ebeling, vice president of the print and media sector of Communications Workers of America Local 6300, St. Louis, said it’s not unknown for someone to fake a union bug.

“It does happen from time to time, and we like to hear about it so we can pursue it,” he said. “If they use the label illegally, it can be pursued.”

In another case, the union recently sued MADCO printing in St. Louis, a non-union printer, saying it appropriated the label from a genuine union shop. The lawsuit was settled but terms were kept quiet by the courts.


The bid on the county envelopes was the lowest by $145.

Thurston said he had talked to county and explained to them the importance of using a genuine union printer.


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