Monday Morning Minute: April 19, 2021

Union Work

How Labor Saved a Paper Mill from the Scrap Heap

USW Local 2-144 – Midwest Paper Group (Former Appleton Coated) - Combined Locks, Wis. – A new book written by local politician and Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate, Tom Nelson, details the saga of the former Appleton Coated Paper Mill (now Midwest Paper Group) located in Combined Locks, Wis. The book, entitled “One Day Stronger,” chronicles the paper mill, which formerly produced coated paper, and its struggles with various legislative and financial entities that nearly sealed the mill’s fate.

In 2014, the Appleton Coated mill was forced into a high-interest loan with large regional bank PNC. PNC had refused to renew its line of credit to the mill and instead hand-picked a consultant with a predetermined mindset to auction off the company. It turned out that PNC had ulterior motives in that it had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a competing company and demanded that Appleton Coated be put into receivership – a similar concept to bankruptcy, but that is specific to the state of Wisconsin.

The book discusses the USW’s integral role in convincing a right-wing judge that the plant had both economic viability and value as a pillar of the community, and would be better served to stay open rather than be liquidated by an interested scrap dealer. The approach involved both labor and management and eventually restored all of the plant’s machines and saved hundreds of jobs.

Read more about the book as well as an interview with the author at the following link: https://prospect.org/culture/books/how-labor-saved-a-paper-mill-from-the-scrap-heap/.

It's Time All of Us had Dignity, Respect at Work: PRO Act Now

Everyone deserves to be heard, treated with respect and have dignity at work. Unions give this power to workers, and that's why we need to pressure the U.S. Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act promotes organizing and collective bargaining, while at the same time establishes strong and swift penalties for companies who break the law.

The PRO Act would also eliminate so-called right to work laws which have proven time and time again to be wrong for all working people. The PRO Act’s elimination of right to work would level a playing field for unions and increase our ability to organize and fight for our members. It would ensure that everyone who receives the wages and benefits provided in a collective bargaining agreement contributes to the cost of negotiating it. Local unions would finally be free of the financial burden of representing freeloaders; everyone would pay their fair share!

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the PRO Act for a second time on March 9, 2021, sending the bill to the U.S. Senate. We need continued action to remind Senators that America's working people need them to pass this important legislation.

Here are two ways you can help:

  1. Call your Senators' offices! Ask them where they stand on the PRO Act and either thank them or ask them for their support. To call your Senators, dial 877-607-0785, make sure to call twice.
  2. Share our social media posts to help spread the word. You can find them on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Use the #PROAct and #PROActNow hashtags.

Safety

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Annual Adjustments to OSHA Civil Penalties

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced adjustments to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) civil penalty amounts based on cost-of-living adjustments for 2021.

OSHA's maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations will increase from $13,494 per violation to $13,653 per violation.

The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $134,937 per violation to $136,532 per violation. Visit the OSHA page for Penalties at the following link for more information: https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/trade/01132021.

Industry Update

Old Navy to Eliminate Plastic Bags in the United States and Canada by 2023

Old Navy announces the elimination of plastic shopping bags in its U.S. and Canadian stores by 2023, alongside other plastic reduction commitments aimed at creating a greener, cleaner future for the next generation. The brand will also invest in a new wave of earth-minded changemakers in honor of the 51st anniversary of Earth Day.

Parent company Gap Inc. committed to eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics by 2030, and Old Navy is sharing steps toward that goal. By 2023, all plastic shopping bags in the brand’s U.S. and Canadian stores will be replaced with paper shoppers made from 40% post-consumer waste kraft material.

USW members make the brown paper that goes into the production of bags at mills as well as convert that paper into actual bags. Our members pride themselves on making a sustainable and environmentally friendly product with a 68 percent recycling rate.  

Domtar’s Kingsport Mill Conversion Moving Along as Planned and Positions Company for More Long-Term Success

USW Local 12943 – Domtar – Kingsport, Tenn.– Domtar’s mill in Kingsport, Tenn., has been around since 1916 and is currently shut down, but is undergoing a conversion from fine paper to containerboard. The company released an update recently stating the conversion is going as planned and is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2023.

Once the conversion is complete, the mill will reopen and have the capacity to produce and market nearly 600,000 tons of high-quality recycled linerboard and corrugated medium each year, making it the second-largest recycled containerboard machine in North America. The conversion is more than a $300 million investment that will return about 150 jobs to the mill and set the site up for more long-term success.

Tell Us Your Stories!

Has your local done something amazing? Have you had a great solidarity action? Done something huge to help your community? Made significant connections with other labor groups? Is your Women of Steel or Next Gen committee making waves? Have you had success in bargaining, major accomplishments? We all stay so busy working to improve our workplaces and communities that we often do not take 5 minutes to reflect, share and celebrate our accomplishments.

Tell us your story so we can all be part of it! Contact Laura Donovan at ldonovan@usw.org, or at 412-562-2504.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222