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Sign of the times: Printers, lithographers lose special pay rate

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Detail of a lithographer from "The American Encyclopaedia of Printing," 1871. Used with permission from the Library Company of Philadelphia, www.librarycompany.org.

It’s no secret that printing on dead trees is a dying art — hello, declining newspaper industry! — but today’s Federal Register contained another reminder at how much the industry has changed. Blue-collar federal printers and lithographers in the Washington area have officially lost their special wage scale.

The Office of Personnel Management says the number of Washington-area printers and lithographers has plummeted in recent years — from 235 in 2004 to 24 this summer, spread across 10 agencies — and it no longer makes sense to offer them different wage rates. (Also, none of those 24 remaining printers or lithographers even benefit from the special wage scale anymore, further making it moot.) OPM said it expects the number of wage-scale printing and lithographic employees in the Washington area to continue to decline until there are none left. The wage scales being discontinued are the XS supervisory schedule printing employee, the XP nonsupervisory special schedule printing employee, and the XL leader special schedule printing employee.

It’s another sign of how the federal government has dramatically scaled back its once-massive printing operations over the last decade. As PDFs and iPads replaced paper Federal Register notices and reports, agencies such as the Government Printing Office have slashed their staffs and shifted much of their resources towards digital publishing.

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