If union printers are short on work anytime soon, they might call upon the U.S. Government Printing Office to keep them busy. That’s because the person now running the agency, William “Bill” Boarman, comes from their ranks. Boarman, previously one of eight sector vice presidents with the Communications Workers of America, last month assumed his duties as GPO head – his formal title is Public Printer of the United States – following a one-year recess appointment on December 29 by President Obama. Like other such appointments, the move bypassed stalled Senate confirmation hearings. Yet given the potential for conflicts of interest, lawmakers may have had good reasons for skepticism.
The U.S. Government Printing Office, which is part of Congress rather than the executive branch, employs about 2,300 persons who produce and distribute a wide range of documents, including congressional hearings, regulations and passports as well as monographs on every imaginable issue. The agency website describes itself as the federal government’s primary centralized source for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing, authenticating, and preserving published information in all its forms. GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government.” Each year, the office procures or produces about $1 billion worth of work.
But there is a hidden story here. The GPO does an enormous amount of outsourcing by granting waivers to federal agencies to do their printing in-house, as authorized by Title 44 of the U.S. Code. William Gindlesperger, CEO of the Chambersburg, Pa.-based e-LYNXX Corporation, explains the implications:
Estimates have been made over the years as to how many billions of dollars escape GPO. No one really knows, because no one has kept close control over waivers, or, for that matter, has a full list of all the waivers granted. One estimate is that there are over 25,000 federal in-house printing plants doing upwards of $20 billion in printing. Think what GPO control over this printing can do for the federal government, the taxpayers, the GPO, and very importantly, for all of us in the printing industry.
In terms of efficiency, this may cut two ways. On one hand, GPO recapture of a large part of the $20 billion outsourcing would mean an agency making better use of slack capacity. On the other hand, it could mean favoritism in routing work toward union shops. Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is certainly enthusiastic about the new leadership. “Bill (Boarman) has stood up for printers and their profession during his long union career with CWA and Local 101-12 of the Columbia Typographical Union,” Cohen said. “Now he is returning to the GPO after 35 years. His is an amazing journey.”
William Boarman, 64, a resident of Severna Park, Md., has taken a long journey, if not necessarily an amazing one. After a four-year apprenticeship, he joined the GPO in 1974, worked there for three years, and moved into the labor end of the business, serving in various elected posts within the International Typographical Union, which merged with the CWA in 1987. He eventually became chief of the Communications Workers of America’s printing, publishing and media workers division. As Public Printer, he replaces Bob Tapella whose three-year tenure under President Bush produced a return to solvency following several years of losses. Keeping the agency in the black, among other things, requires keeping labor costs down. If Boarman displays more loyalty to union allies than to taxpayers, however, progress might be reversed.