Monday Morning Minute: Aug. 8, 2022

Union Work

USW Local 1303 – Pixelle Specialty Solutions – Spring Grove, Pa. – Pay Practice Arbitration Win

USW Local 1303, representing Pixelle Specialty Solutions’ Spring Grove, Pa., specialty paper mill, won an arbitration award dealing with the company’s attempt to unilaterally eliminate a long-standing pay practice called short-handed pay. Short-handed pay is when two or more employees work together on machine-controlled operations or on continuous production equipment, where it may be necessary to operate short-handed on occasion. When this occurs for at least two consecutive hours, three-quarters of the missing employee’s pay is equally divided among the other employees on the crew, provided that production is fully maintained.

Pixelle unilaterally eliminated short-handed pay for workers on the Shark #2 pulp machine, which runs about 25% of the time. Both the USW and company came to an understanding in 2013 on short-handed pay and settled a grievance. The employer announced that it was a past practice and that it was discontinuing it on the expiration of the CBA, and the union filed a separate grievance. Whether it can be unilaterally eliminated or not, it is a practice, and the employer admitted as much. The arbitrator determined that the settlement is binding and sustained the award.

If you are interested in viewing a copy of the arbitration award, please contact Laura Donovan (


USW Health, Safety and Environment Award Nominations Now Being Accepted

Safety award nominations for individuals and locals are now being accepted for the next USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference taking place the week of April 16, 2023. All nominations are reviewed and then winners are selected for presentation at the HSE conference.

A description of each award is included in the link that follows as well as how to nominate a person or a local. If you know of any individuals or locals that fit the description for the awards, please follow the link and nominate them.

The U.S Chemical Safety Board Has Released its Final Report on a Pressure Valve Explosion at a St. Louis Box Shop

Last week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into a 2017 explosion that occurred at the Loy-Lange box company in St. Louis, Mo., and resulted in the death of four people. While this incident did not occur at a USW-represented site, it is possible that the hazard(s) that led to it could be present in any of the facilities that we represent, if not properly identified.

The incident occurred when a pressure vessel catastrophically failed, fatally injuring one employee at the company and launching the pressure vessel from the building and through the roof of a nearby business, fatally injuring three members of the public. The Chemical Safety Board investigated and found that over the course of many years, an area of the failed pressure vessel had thinned due to a known corrosion mechanism that was poorly controlled. The CSB also found that Loy-Lange repeatedly ignored clear warnings that corrosion was causing major problems within its operations.

The CSB determined that the cause of the explosion was deficiencies in Loy-Lange’s operations, policies and process safety practices that failed to prevent or mitigate chronic corrosion. Furthermore, the CSB determined that contributing to the incident was the city of St. Louis’s missed opportunities to identify and ensure proper inspections, identify an inadequate repair and examine existing gaps in inspection requirements.

As a result of its findings, the CSB identified four safety issues, and is issuing recommendations to Loy-Lange, the city and mayor of St. Louis, the inspection company Arise, and the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. 

Industry Update

Ahlstrom-Munksjo to Invest in Technology to Reduce its Carbon Footprint at USW-Represented Mosinee and Rhinelander, Wis., Mills

USW Locals 2-221, 2-316, 1778 & 2-15 – Ahlstrom-Munksjo – Mosinee & Rhinelander, Wis. –Ahlstrom-Munksjo announced that it will invest approximately $15 million in its Mosinee and Rhinelander, Wis., mills to reduce carbon emissions and landfill waste. The investment will go toward new technology and to convert the mills’ existing boilers and a heat recovery steam generator.

The impact of the investments is anticipated to decrease the Mosinee mill’s carbon footprint by approximately 20 percent, and reduce its landfill waste by more than 10 percent. The Rhinelander mill is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 14 percent and landfill waste by more than 50 percent.

Nearly 650 USW members work at one of the two Ahlstrom mills in Wisconsin. The announced investments not only promote sustainability and represent the industry’s adaptability, but they will also improve the operational efficiency of the mills, ensuring that our members have good-paying, secure jobs for many years to come.

PCA to Add 265,000 Tons of Linerboard Capacity to J3 Paper Machine through Two Upcoming Projects Totaling $450 Million

USW Locals 361 & 1083 – Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) – Jackson, Ala. – In November, PCA will shut its J3 paper machine for one month related to a project that will increase its linerboard capacity by 125,000 tons/year. Currently, the large J3 machine produces approximately 700,000 tons/year of capacity, making it one of the largest machines of its kind in the United States.

Additionally, the company will do a second project on the J3 machine in the spring of 2023, which will add 140,000 tons/year of additional capacity. More dryer cans and drying capacity will be added during the work next year. The projects total about $450 million in addition to other work being done at the mill, and represent the second of a two-part phase of the machine’s ensuing status as one of the largest linerboard machines in the country.

In 2020, PCA announced that it would convert the J3 machine to produce [“brown”] linerboard in addition to [“white”] paper, swinging production between the two grades, allowing the company to cater to its existing customer base while establishing itself in the quickly-expanding containerboard market. Then, in 2021, PCA announced that the conversion would be permanent, signifying its decisive commitment to the containerboard market. This summer, an old corrugated container line is being installed, which will enable the machine to flex between virgin fiber and recycled.

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, 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