Who We Are
Lithography has been used to reproduce art and copy since its inventor, Alois Senefelder, itemized a laundry list using crayon on a piece of stone in 1797. He accidentally stumbled on the art as a struggling playwright looking for an economical way to reproduce his scripts. Senefelder capitalized on the knowledge that grease and water don't mix and developed a process that revolutionized the printing industry. But this revolution was not a one-man operation.
A brave group of craftsmen calling themselves the Romar Fishing Club secretly met in a fishing shack on New York’s Hudson River in April of 1882. They adopted the fishing club title to hide their activities from their employers. The group mapped out plans to protect their craft and bring about a better standard of living. The improvements they sought then are still relevant today. They fought against layoffs, piece work, wage cuts, unhealthy working conditions, and the exploitation of the lithographer.
Lithography took a quantum leap in the first fifteen years of the 20th century: photography found its way into the lithographic process, as did half-tone screens and mechanical presses. Living up to the promise of high speed and efficiency, they quickly became popular.
The Amalgamated Lithographers of America was created in January 1915 by incorporating the Stone and Plate Preparers Association and the Union of Litho Workmen. The Feeders Association joined in 1918 and the Poster Artists Association signed on in 1945. Over the next four decades the ALA would continue to change with the times and technological advances. The ALA won victory after victory in a variety of wage and fringe benefit increases, including: paid vacations, paid holidays, pension fund, health and welfare programs, and the 35-hour work week.
The future continues to present challenges to the skills of the workers and leaders alike. Innovative technology and higher skill demands are revolutionizing the industry, thereby altering the time-honored craftsmanship of the prep, press and finishing departments. Even in today’s refined digital age we find many shops harboring the same conditions the Romar Fishing Club fought so hard against: layoffs, wage cuts and exploitation of skilled workers who in the non-union sector. Unions fight for the rights of all working people.
We are the voice of the worker.
Click here to read a Timeline of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America.
To learn more about our rich history, read History of the Lithographers Union: Amalgamated Lithographers of America from 1882 by Fred C. Munson.