Printer of Orioles programs since 1954 loses job Nonunion Va. company wins contract

February 16, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

For the first time since the Orioles' return to the major leagues in 1954, the program books sold by stadium vendors at each home game will not be printed in the Baltimore area.

The Glen Burnie company that lost the contract, French Bray, had been printing the program books every year since 1954. The winner is Stephenson Printing in Alexandria, Va.

The presidents of both companies said yesterday that the change was the result of increased competition in the region.

Despite the competitive bidding process used by the Orioles, the decision did not sit well with Steven P. Dula, president of Baltimore Graphics and Communication Union Local 61C.

He said he feared the impact on the 51 union members working at French Bray. The Alexandria company that won the contract is nonunion.

Mr. Dula called the Orioles' decision "a slap in the face of Marylanders" after the state built a new stadium for the team at Camden Yards. "It's taking our jobs out of Baltimore and giving them to someone from Virginia," the labor leader said.

Union members picketing outside the stadium during Orioles games to urge the public not to buy the program books is a possibility, Mr. Dula said.

But Ronald L. Bray, president of French Bray, said he did not anticipate any reduction in his company's work force because of the loss of the Orioles contract.

"It's certainly not something we can't overcome. We'll just have to work hard to make up for it," Mr. Bray said. "The thing we hate to see is [losing] the prestige of printing the program."

He acknowledged the union president's concern, saying, "The industry's been pretty depressed the last couple of years. [But] they're not going to lose time. There's not going to be layoffs on account of this."

Orioles spokesman Bob Miller said the choice of a printing

company was purely a business decision and expressed regret over any complaint made about the location of the winning firm.

"This was a decision that was made after weighing every conceivable factor," he said.

"French Bray came in with a bid that was not competitive with other companies. We went back to them on several occasions," Mr. Miller said, adding that the longtime program printer could not match the Stephenson bid.

"No one here ever had a complaint about the quality of French Bray," Mr. Miller said, noting that the company has bid and won other team printing contracts recently.

Mr. Bray said his company is printing the Orioles yearbook, with an initial press run of about 30,000 copies, for the first time in several years.

He attributed the loss of the program book to publicity about the large number of sales -- probably as collectibles -- in last year's debut season of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, at least 75,000 of them for Opening Day alone.

"There's a lot of printers out there. . . . I'm sure a lot of people marked it on their calendars to contact the Orioles about the program book this year. It just happened that some of the larger printers with larger equipment came in."

French Bray, he said, uses a "half web" press system capable of printing eight pages at a time, while Stephenson has a full web and can run twice as many pages in a single press run.

George W. Stephenson, president of the company in Alexandria, said market dynamics may have cost French Bray the Orioles contract, but that those same forces bring considerable business from Washington to that company and other printers in the Baltimore area.

"I would imagine the union employees at French Bray and every other union printing company should be happy they probably do more business in Washington than they do in Baltimore," Mr. Stephenson said.

"If Washington print buyers took offense at something like that [local work printed out of town], that would cost a lot of business for Baltimore," Mr. Stephenson said. "I know work that leaves the Washington area and Virginia area for Baltimore every day. There's nothing unusual about it.

"We're a common market, so to speak -- the Baltimore-Richmond corridor. There's a lot of printing, and the bulk of it is in central Washington. We have employees who live in Baltimore."

And the Orioles, Mr. Stephenson said, "are a regional team, even more so than the Washington Redskins."

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