GCC Teamsters Print U.S. Currency
Lonnie Ouzts, a member of the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters Union (GCC), is surrounded by hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the span of just a few minutes, giant presses churn out more money than most people would earn in multiple lifetimes. There are stacks of note sheets (32 $100 bills to a sheet) everywhere, on their way to being inspected, cut into single notes, and shrink-wrapped and sent off to Federal Reserve banks. It’s a breathtaking and intoxicating environment for visitors, but 51-year union member Ouzts isn’t fazed by being surrounded by more money than the gross national product of many countries.
Ouzts is a 27-year employee of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), and Ouzts’ job is to inspect the currency before it is shipped from the fortress-like building near Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.
Ouzts and other GCC Teamsters print America’s money, keeping the nation’s cash transactions running smoothly.
When asked if he ever is “blown away” by the millions and billions of dollars within arm’s reach over the course of his job, Ouzts shakes his head and explains his thinking.
“I got my money in my pocket,” he says with a smile.
That’s how it is for the 280 GCC Teamster members—pressmen and bookbinders—working at the BEP plant in Washington, D.C. and at a satellite plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The GCC members help print about $900 million a day, much of which ends up in the pockets of citizens everywhere. In addition, the BEP employs 11 photo engravers who belong to GCC/IBT Local 285 who work on other BEP materials.
Hoffa Visits Workers
General President Jim Hoffa and GCC President George Tedeschi recently toured the BEP’s Washington’s facility and met with GCC members who print the nation’s currency. (The BEP offers tours of the plant—visit www.moneyfactory.gov for more information.)
“In addition to producing and designing newspapers and magazines, GCC Teamsters produce our nation’s currency, and they do a fabulous job,” Hoffa said. “Being here shows me just how talented these workers are. They have an awesome responsibility.”
“I’m very proud of the members of our GCC/IBT locals who keep the nation’s cash flowing,” Tedeschi said. “These workers are very talented, and they have adapted well to all the new technologies, including all the anti-counterfeiting measures.”
For GCC Teamsters like Ouzts, a member of Local 4B, the union has made a huge difference in their lives.
“The union has given us a great benefit plan and nice raises,” said Ouzts, who has worked at the BEP for 27 years and was also a member of the union at other jobs for 24 years before that. “I’ve been in the union my whole life.”
Local 1C in Washington, D.C. is the oldest local union within the GCC, and it has represented workers at the BEP since 1873, said Howard Brown, Local 1C’s President.
James Sutherland, a Local 1C member, has worked at the BEP for about 10 years, but has been a member of the former Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU) since he was 18. The GCC was created after the GCIU voted to join forces with Teamsters in late 2004.
“I love the union,” said Sutherland, a pressman standing next to presses turning out sheets of $20 bills. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the union. The union has provided me with apprenticeship opportunities and good wages and benefits. I’ve supported my family well my whole life thanks to the union. The union also makes sure we are treated fairly.”
Pressman Frank Grap, a Local 1C member, operates a Simultan offset press. Sheets of paper the size of 32 bills are placed in the Simultan, which prints subtle background colors.
“I’ve been union all my life,” said Grap, a 20-year veteran of the BEP who worked union jobs for 30 years before that. “The union has helped me improve my wages, and they have done a great job negotiating strong contracts.”
From the Simultan, the sheets of bills get fed through two high-speed Intaglio presses. One of the presses prints the notes’ green backs. The other press prints the black face engraving. The new generation notes, which have anti-counterfeiting features, go back through an offset press for subtle background colors.
Making the Grade
Next, the notes go through the inspection process. That’s where workers like Ouzts come in. The inspectors use a system equipped with a high-tech camera to look through the notes. Workers make sure the notes’ watermarks are correct. Workers also take digital images to compare with a master image.
“The best part of the job for me is getting to use computers to do the inspections, which is a big change from the old days,” Ouzts said.
After the sheets meet the electronic inspection standards, the sheets are then ready for numbering and processing.
Frank Privitera, a pressman who has worked at the BEP for more than six years, uses the Bureau’s overprinting and processing equipment to add the final touches before the notes get shipped out.
“We print the serial numbers, Federal Reserve seal and Treasury seal,” Privitera said.
Stacks of 100 sheets are then cut into single notes and then banded and packaged into bricks of 4,000 notes. The bricks are distributed to one of the 12 Federal Reserve banks, which issues the notes to local banks.
“I get to print United States currency,” said Privitera, a member of Local 1C. “I take pride in my job. This is what it’s all about. A lot of people see this. This goes all over the world.”
As for being a GCC Teamster, Privitera is equally enthusiastic.
“The union, to me, is all about pride and unity,” he said.
Before touring the BEP, Hoffa and Tedeschi met with BEP Director Larry Felix, who praised the work of GCC Teamsters. Felix said GCC Teamsters are involved in the two most significant parts of the process, where counterfeit deterrents and security devices are added to the currency.
“Your members play a key role in protecting the integrity of our nation’s currency,” Felix said. “Keeping our currency safe is critical to the nation’s security.”