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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Update on the current state of trade associations

 Although 2013 is still young, one of this year’s most remarkable stories has been the sudden birth of the U.S.-based National Print Owners Association, Inc. (NPOA).  When the status quo failed to meet the needs of 19 small-business entrepreneurs, they launched their own self-support initiative—and in the process have ended up helping a lot of other printers as well.
Their resulting dialogues have also helped to clarify what many printers need, want, and expect from a trade association these days.

To date, by my reckoning, NPOA's achievements include 261 association members in five countries, a growing roster of membership benefits, a very active LinkedIn discussion group with 374 participants, and a sold-out April conference in New Orleans.   

Recently three of NPOA’s officers, President Jace Prejean (left), Treasurer John Henry (top right), and Conference Co-Chair / LinkedIn moderator Scott Cappel (bottom right), weighed in with me in detail on these recent developments.  My report of our discussions is available at:

For further information:

CPIA faces uncertain future after CPISC closure

On 22 March 2013, the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC) in Ottawa closed down, after the Canadian federal government terminated its core funding (along with funding for all Sector Councils.)  CPISC’s Website will be operational until the end of June 2013.  The HR resources CPISC developed will be transferred to and maintained by the Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA, also based in Ottawa.)

In 2012, CPISC had announced plans to form a new national association, called Printing Industries of Canada (PIC), by amalgamating with CPIA. However, a statement issued this month by Sandy Stephens, chair of CPIA’s board, said the demise of CPISC has rendered the future of PIA uncertain. 

CPIA’s related scholarship trust, (the Canadian Printing Industries Scholarship Trust Fund, CPISTF, that provides scholarships to students in post-secondary graphic communications programs in Canada) has always been a separate legal entity from both CPISC and CPIA.  Accordingly, CPISTF Chair Don Gain has confirmed that CPISTF will remain viable for those students already supported and to new students for the upcoming 2013/14 school year.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vertis ex-workers in Fort Erie post song describing their ordeal

Rooster1966, one of my faithful social-media sources, advises that the ex-workers of the closed Vertis Communications plant in Fort Erie, Ontario, have composed a ballad about their recent legal and political ordeal.  

Based on the lyrics, I'm guessing that the title of the song is “Thank you very much for dumping on me”.  

A folk rendition, performed by a cartoon cat (with an unexpectedly good singing voice), is posted on YouTube at:

Update on 23 April 2013:
Very sorry to report that the video mentioned above has been removed from YouTube by the user, and as yet I have been unable to locate it elsewhere.  I will post its new location here if and when I find it. 

Background on this story is available at:

Vertis set to close Dallas plant on April Fool’s Day

According to the Dallas Business Journal, Vertis Communications will close its Dallas facility, laying off 27 workers, on Monday 1 April 2013. The company disclosed the plan in a letter to the Texas Workforce Commission.  The Dallas facility at 8000 Ambassador Road was one of four facilities left out of the recent purchase of Vertis by Quad/Graphics Inc., along with Vertis facilities in New Jersey, Ohio and Ontario, Canada. 

I have been unable to uncover any further on-line news stories about the Dallas closure nor suggestions that it is causing anything near the furor of the Fort Erie, Ontario and Medina, Ohio closures.  Please drop me a line if you have more information.

Background on the other Vertis closures is available at:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vatican circulates news about new Pope Francis I via Millennial-friendly print-digital-mobile mix

The Vatican doesn’t only have a new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a.k.a. His Holiness Francis I.  The Vatican’s in-plant printing operation, known as Tipografia Vaticana, has also installed a new Meteor DP8700 XL press (right).  

The installation (of the press, not the pope) was handled by MGI’s Italian distribution partner, Agfa Graphics.  Pope Sixtus V established the Vatican’s historic printing operation in 1587.  Its equipment now comprises sheetfed and web-offset, and its products now include a weekly newsletter, magazines, brochures, stationery, and envelopes for the Vatican, as well as several magazines and art publications for the Vatican Library and museums.

Vatican newshounds with a digital preference can also get their news via Internet and social-media sources, thanks to Irish priest Monsignor Paul Tighe.  For the past five years, Monsignor Tighe has headed the Pope’s 30-person social-media office, formally called Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus, situated on the Via della Conciliazione leading into St. Peter’s Square.  The operation produces:
*  Tweets for two Twitter addresses:  @Pontifex (the Pope) and @news_va_en (the Vatican) 
*  Content for the news portal
*  Content for Facebook at
*  Photographs on Flickr at

It also developed the (free) Pope App for Android and Apple iPhone devices.  

Clearly, just like the major newspapers I detailed in my recent cover story for PrintAction (entitled Reinventing the Newspaper the Vatican is discovering ways to deliver news and attract a younger demographic via a flexible, user-friendly, print-digital-mobile mix.

Update on 22 March 2013:

Coincidentally, the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Cross-Media Innovation Center Industry Portal reports recent statistics showing that printed newspapers and magazines remain effective at reaching all ages of U.S. consumers, including early-adopter Millenials (young adults ages 18-34).  (However, television ties with mobile for maximum reach with this demographic; both media reach 94 percent of these consumers in a given week.)  

The statistics also verify that U.S. consumers move between multiple devices and media platforms many times each day.

I am indebted to my LinkedIn contact George F. Sittlinger for bringing these statistics to my attention.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pierre Karl Péladeau stepping down as Quebecor CEO

Yesterday came the unexpected announcement that, after 14 years, Pierre Karl Péladeau is stepping down as president and CEO of Quebecor Inc. and its major subsidiary Quebecor Media Inc., effective May 8th.  Although Mr. Péladeau's participation in everyday operations will diminish, he still plans to remain active in overseeing strategic issues at both companies as chairman of the board of Quebecor Media and vice-chairman of the board of Quebecor Inc.

Quebecor Inc. was founded by his father, also named Pierre Péladeau (1925-1997), in the mid-1960s based on newspapers and printing.  It is now one of Canada’s largest media and telecom companies. 

Mr. Péladeau’s own account of the upcoming management changes appears in the Toronto Sun (he is also president and CEO of Sun Media Corporation, one of Quebecor's subsidiaries) at:

Other Canadian media outlets are now weighing in with various retrospectives and opinions on Quebecor's development and Mr. Péladeau’s career; for example, at:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vertis Communications files for bankruptcy in Canada, Quad obtains court order against protesting ex-workers

Among the latest developments in the labour dispute arising from the January closure of the Vertis Communications plant in Fort Erie, Ontario, Vertis Communications has filed for bankruptcy in Canada.

Formerly, since Vertis’s parent company was based in the U.S. and bankruptcy proceedings never took place in Canada, the company was able to avoid paying severance to its Canadian ex-workers.

The new move turns Vertis’s former Canadian workers into unsecured creditors.  “So we’re going to the bottom of the food chain,  Everyone else will get paid and if there’s anything left, it will be divided among us,” today’s Niagara Falls Review quotes Dan Wickson, president of Communications, Energy and Paperworks Union of Canada (CEP) Local 425-G, as saying.  CEP Local 425-G represents the former workers, who number about 100 and believe collectively they are owed about $2.7 million in severance pay (or a crude average of $27,000 per ex-worker.)

Social media rumours
One of my social media sources, Rooster1966, says the latest rumours suggest that the Fort Erie plant made too much profit last year to be eligible for bankruptcy and that the filing is supposedly backdated to October 2012.  S/he promises to keep me informed of new developments.  (Thanks again, Rooster.)

Wage Income Protection Fund
 Although the ex-workers seem less and less likely to get all of what they say is owed to them, Vertis’s Canadian bankruptcy will potentially make each of the ex-workers eligible for a pittance in compensation under the Wage Income Protection Fund.  This federal Canadian program provides up to $3,700 per employee in situations where workers are terminated without severance.

Quad/Graphics obtains court order against protesting ex-workers after threatening individual lawsuits
Since January the ex-workers have been picketing the closed Vertis plant gates 24 hours a day, about five workers at a time, delaying anyone from entering the property to seize the equipment and other assets remaining in the building. 

The assets have been purchased by Quad/Graphics, who took the ex-workers to court last week, seeking an injunction to end their picket line. The Liberal Minister of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Niagara Falls, Kim Craitor, who has been supporting the ex-workers, tells Niagara This Week: “I was in court with them, and I’m pretty disgusted that Quad did that.” Craitor adds that Quad was not only seeking an order to force the workers out but also threatened separate cases against individuals to recoup costs.

“[Quad] implied they might sue people because of costs that were incurred when they had to hire some security,” Niagara This Week quotes Craitor as saying. “The workers were very upset and worried that they might now have to pay some kind of fine.” 

As a result of Quad’s court action against them, the ex-workers  are now subject to a new court order requiring them to allow trucks to enter the closed plant.  The order limits the protesters to holding only a 10-minute information picket on each vehicle,

Wickson tells Niagara Falls Review reporter Ray Spiteri:  "We're telling [vehicle drivers] why we're there, telling them our story and asking them to honour our picket. But we understand they're just average guys trying to feed their families, too."

"We still have to get our message out. It looks like it's too late for us, but maybe our effort will raise enough awareness so that others won't have to go through this in the future."

More background on this story is available at:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Union representing closed Vertis plant workers and Quad/Graphics appear in Ontario court

Yesterday (Thursday) lawyers representing protesting ex-workers of the closed Vertis printing plant in Fort Erie, Ontario (who are members of CEP, the Communications, Energy and Paperworks Union of Canada) and Quad/Graphics appeared in the Superior Court in St. Catharines, Ontario, to resolve issues arising from the workers’ continual picket line outside the closed plant.

The workers are protesting their treatment in January when their jobs were terminated without severance pay.  Quad/Graphics, who owns such assets inside the closed plant as equipment, paper, and ink, and is in the process of having these assets relocated, had filed a motion for an injunction, claiming the workers have no right to form a "blockade" preventing trucks going in and out of the plant, since their dispute is with Vertis not Quad/Graphics. 

But since the U.S. parent company of Vertis filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection last year and Vertis has told the ex-workers they have no money, the ex-workers are afraid these assets are their only potential source of recompense.  They don't want to see them removed until they are paid what they claim is legally owed to them, an amount estimated at around $2.7 million.

Justice Robert Nightingale postponed the hearing until Monday 11 March 2013 to give the union time to prepare its case. 
Meanwhile, lawyers for the two sides have agreed to try to come up with a mutually acceptable “picket protocol” that will include rules for how long the the protesters can stop a vehicle.

More background on this story is available at:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tour of Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto offers packaging and branding insights

About a year ago I wrote a cover story for PrintAction detailing how Steam Whistle Brewing and other craft breweries are revolutionizing beer branding, packaging, and consumption in Canada.

Since then I have watched half a dozen Guinness-loving beer connoisseurs from Belfast, who have visited me socially at various times, marvel over the product quality and packaging innovations created by our local microbreweries—not to mention the fact that their products are uniquely Canadian (whereas all of Canada’s major mainstream breweries are owned by foreign interests.)

Now I see that PAC – The Packaging Association has organized a group tour on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, to give packaging professionals a glimpse of Steam Whistle Brewing’s brand new bottle-washing, filling and packaging line. 

I’m sure readers will find a visit to the brewery in downtown Toronto as enlightening as I did, either as part of PAC’s tour or the tours the brewery regularly runs for the public.

Monday, March 4, 2013

$10-million Donnelley donation to Florida museum includes 55 vintage Model A Fords

Last week the Elliott Museum of Stuart, Martin County, Florida, announced it had received a $10-million charitable donation from the Elliott R. Donnelley family--the largest single gift in the museum’s 53-year history.

Yesterday the museum also held its grand opening for the new 48,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly facility it will occupy following $20 million worth of reconstruction.  The Donnelley gift comprises about $8 million towards the reconstruction campaign, $1.2 million towards operational support, and 55 vintage Ford Model A vehicles valued at $800,000 from Elliott Donnelley's personal collection.  (A random sample of a Model A Ford is shown above.)  The classic automobiles donated by Mr. Donnelley will be housed in the museum's "Wheels of Change" exhibition of antique cars.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Elliott Donnelley’s enthusiasm for the Model A derived from the fact that he learned to drive in one.  He started collecting Model As in 1968, and what makes his collection remarkable is that he added commercial vehicles, including a Model A hearse, a Model A dump truck, and a 1931 Model A ambulance that was converted into a camper.

Mr. Donnelley, now 75, is the great-grandson of Richard Robert Donnelley, the founder of R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company of Chicago, the largest commercial printing company in North America, with annual sales of over $5 billion and 40 manufacturing facilities around the world.  He is also head of the non-profit organization Model A's Inc. and founder of the Lantana Boat Yard, both in Palm Beach County, Florida.