Monday Morning Minute: August 10, 2020

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 361 – Packaging Corporation of America – Jackson, Ala.

On August 5, a member was seriously injured while working at the PCA mill in Jackson, Ala., after a starter in the Woodyard MCC exploded. The complete details are unknown at this time and we will follow up in the near future with more details when they become available.

Union Work

New NLRB Decision is Another Blow to Labor

In late July, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a new decision that creates a new standard for determining whether employees may be lawfully disciplined for using offensive language or engaging in outbursts against management. The Board traditionally considered four factors when reviewing an employee’s use of offensive language in an outburst to management: the location of the outburst, the subject matter of the discussion, the nature of the outburst and whether the employer provoked it.  These criteria originated in a 1979 decision with Atlantic Steel Co. and have been the basis for judgment since that time.

While General Motors, the company involved in the recent decision, did not request the NLRB to overrule the Atlantic Steel decision, the Board decided to do so on its own while also reconsidering two additional distinct lines of cases involving the use of offensive language used in other contexts within protected activities. The additional lines of cases involve profanity used with other employees on social media—where the totality of circumstances is taken into consideration before determining whether an employee was lawfully terminated—and picket line conduct—where the Board has long held that a picketing employee only loses protection under the Act if conduct “may reasonably tend to coerce or intimidate employees in the exercise of rights under the Act.”

The implications of the decision are broad, as employers may begin to more aggressively pursue discipline based on offensive language. The decision can be found here: https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-modifies-standard-for-addressing-offensive-outbursts-in-the-course-of

Safety

Where to Check the LFL before Hot Work – From Center for Chemical Process Safety

The Center for Chemical Process Safety reported in the organization’s monthly Beacon newsletter on locations to be checked for lower flammability limit (LFL) before and during hot work.

One element of preparing for hot work is to check for – and prevent – the presence of combustible materials and/or flammable vapors within 35 ft (10.7m) as sparks from flame-cutting, welding and grinding can bounce a long way. Also, gravity can pull sparks and hot particles down to the ground and even down into pits and sumps because most flammable vapors are heavier than air, so they tend to accumulate in low spaces, including sewers and sumps.

What can you do?

The USW paper sector has had many incidents with hot work, including the incident at the Packaging Corporation of America facility in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, on July 29, 2008, where three workers were killed– See page seven of the Chemical Safety Board’s February 2010, “Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks, Effective Hazard Assessment and Use of Combustible Gas Monitoring Will Save Lives,” where the incident at PCA is reviewed: https://www.csb.gov/assets/1/17/csb_hot_work_safety_bulletin_embargoed_until_10_a_m__3_4_101.pdf?14329

Immediate STOP USE: 3M™ Fall Protection Specific DBI-SALA® Delta™ & Exofit XP™ Arc Flash Harnesses

3M issued a recall notice for its 3M DBI-Sala Self-Rescue Descent System on August 6. The system is used throughout the paper sector. Details are as follows:

On August 6, 2020, 3M Fall Protection announced an immediate stop use and product recall of all 3M DBI-SALA Self-Rescue Descent Systems (part numbers 3320030, 3320031, and 3320037) manufactured before July 2020. 3M identified a potential cracking issue in the inner rope spool of these units that may occur (1) as a result of embrittlement over time of the plastic inner rope spool in all models; and (2) after repetitive descents of the training model (P/N 3320037). This issue could impact the ability of a user to descend in the event of a fall. 3M is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this condition, but users should remove these products from service immediately.

Click the link to read the detailed recall notice and file a claim for any affected 3M DBI-SALA Self-Rescue Descent System you own: https://www.selfrsqrecall.com/

Industry Update

Domtar to close mill in Port Huron, permanently shut down uncoated free sheet paper machine in Ashdown and shut down and convert Kingsport mill to recycled linerboard

USW Locals 1329, 13-1327, 12943, & 51 – Domtar – Ashdown, Ark.; Kingsport, Tenn.; & Port Huron, Mich. – Domtar announced several changes to its business on Friday, August 7, including the permanent closure of its uncoated free sheet paper mill in Port Huron, shutdown of its remaining uncoated free sheet paper machine at Ashdown, and the conversion of its paper mill in Kingsport to recycled linerboard. The moves are primarily a response to difficult market conditions for uncoated free sheet, which has been in decline for years and pushed even further down due to the closures of offices and schools in the current pandemic.

The Kingsport mill and uncoated free sheet paper machines at Ashdown have been down since April and will not resume operations; The Port Huron mill is expected to shut down by the first quarter of 2021, and 152 USW members will be laid off. Approximately 90 members at Ashdown will be affected by the uncoated free sheet paper machine shut. The USW represents 222 members at the mill in Kingsport, and after the conversion to recycled linerboard, that number will be 120. The USW has been heavily involved in effects bargaining at all three locations.

The conversion of the Kingsport mill represents Domtar’s entry into producing recycled linerboard, which is considered a growing market. Although, we are losing folks, repurposing the mill secures its future and creates diversity through an aggressive investment in a new market. The conversion to recycled linerboard is expected to take about three years to complete, and the company hopes to have it back online by the first quarter of 2023.

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