Monday Morning Minute: April 27, 2020

Union Work

Hand Sanitizer Donations to USW Nursing Homes in Need of PPE

USW Local 264 – WestRock – St. Paul, Minn. – When District 11 Assistant to the Director Cathy Drummond heard that three USW-represented nursing homes in the district were critically low on personal protective equipment (PPE) and unable to acquire any from their suppliers, an appeal to other USW employers in the district went out to see if they had any to share. The three nursing homes – St. Francis Guardian Angels Nursing Home in Hibbing, Minn., Local 9349-04; Ecumen Lakeshores in Duluth, Minn., Local 9460-05; and Koochiching Health Services Nursing Home in Littlefork, Minn., Local 9349-15 – were critically low on items like hand sanitizer, face shields and masks.

Brian Ecker, staff representative for Local 264 covering the WestRock mill in St. Paul, Minn., reached out to the company and it answered the call with a generous donation of 15 gallons of hand sanitizer. Pictured below to the left is Local 9349 Financial Secretary Chad Longpre Shepersky with Director of Nursing Bobbi Radaich. Chad is also a certified nursing assistant at St. Francis Guardian Angels Nursing Home.

Below is a photo of the donations that came in from WestRock and other employers in the district.

Important Resources from your Union

The USW has been working hard to make sure that you have the most up-to-date resources possible during these challenging times. Below is a comprehensive list of communications, information and tools that you can access all in one place. Included is a special message from USW International President Tom Conway, honoring all USW members who are considered essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic.

“USW Live: Coronavirus and You” video (link is listed below and also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi4hN0jeGgY), features our union’s legislative experts who thoroughly explain everything you need to know about COVID-19 related laws and how they affect you, your family, and your jobs. 

Be sure to also check out the link to the USW Free College Program, which now offers four-year degrees in addition to two-year degrees for members and their families, and information on grants that are available for members who are suffering financially due to COVID-19.

COVID-19

Info & Reporting:

Media (videos + podcast):

Articles/Info Alerts:

Take Action:

UnionPlus/Free College

Election Resources

Safety

Workers’ Memorial Day – Remembering the Workers that we Lost this Year

Each year on April 28 we honor the workers who suffered and lost their lives on the job. While this year we may be honoring these workers a little differently, at a distance, we continue to reflect on this day. We had three deaths in the paper sector between April 28, 2019 and April 28, 2020; as a union, we experienced 29.

USW Local 4-75 member Brian LeClerc, who worked at Gorham Paper & Tissue, passed away on Nov. 18, 2019, due to his injuries sustained in an accident that took place on Oct. 22, 2019. Antonio Castro, a contractor working at Graphic Packaging’s West Monroe mill, passed away on Dec. 18, 2019, and contractor Jere Smith at Verso Corporation’s Wisconsin Rapids mill, represented by Local 2-94 unit 2, passed away from his injuries after falling at the mill on Feb. 29, 2020. Additionally, an unknown number of USW members have died from coronavirus in the ongoing pandemic. Currently, we know of at least five members who we have lost to COVID-19 so far in the paper sector.

Industry Update

Sappi Cloquet Mill Workers Return to Work after Layoffs Due to COVID-19

USW Local 11-63 – Sappi – Cloquet, Minn. – Workers at Sappi’s Cloquet, Minn., mill returned to work last Thursday after a one-week layoff, as the plant prepares for its annual outage. The Cloquet mill has been taking intermittent downtime to reduce production as demand for its primary product, coated freesheet, has taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic. While paper mills in Minnesota have been determined to be essential businesses, many of the facility’s printing company customers are shut down. The mill timed the layoffs with its annual three-week outage.

USW paper sector and district leadership have worked extensively reaching out to state governors across the country asking them to deem other parts of the supply chain as essential. In other states, like Pennsylvania, we have been successful in requesting that governors include printing operations in their mandates.

International Paperboard Packaging Coalition, Fiber Shield, Formed to Supply Face Shields to Medical Professionals in Need

Fiber Shield was formed by over 40 packaging firms around the world to share resources and production capabilities to supply single-use face shields to medical professionals and first responders. Among those companies are several USW-represented employers, including Graphic Packaging, Menasha Corporation, Paperworks, Sonoco, Case Paper and WestRock. Collectively, these paperboard packaging companies have donated 1,250,000 fiber face shields to-date. The coalition is offering information on regional producers and supply chain partners to search for paper mills and other suppliers that are offering production assistance.

International Paper – Eighty Four, Pa. – Incinerator Fire

USW Local 14693 – On April 22, the International Paper box shop located in Eighty Four, Pa., experienced a fire in its incinerator located on the roof of the facility. Fortunately, no one was injured, and everyone was evacuated safely. No damage was done to the roof or building, and everyone was able to return to work when the fire was extinguished.

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