Monday Morning Minute: August 31, 2020

Union Work

IndustriALL Global Right-to-Participate Action

Around Labor Day, the USW paper sector, along with global union affiliates UNI and IndustriALL, is participating in the third and final of three actions highlighting the 3 “R’s” of work – The Right to Know, the Right to Act and the Right to Participate. We, as workers and unions throughout the global pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors, are coming together to underline our Right to Participate in the safety management of our workplaces. This follows two successful previous global actions and comes at a time when our role is even more important than normal as we face the global pandemic.

Each local will be receiving in the mail this week a packet containing a two-sided leaflet and a poster that may be hung up on a bulletin board, in breakrooms or any other public space that you are allowed to do so. Feel free to make copies, locally, of the leaflet included in the packet to distribute across your location, or, simply display it alongside the poster. Please send us any photos of your local taking action around this campaign to Laura Donovan ( so that we can highlight the important work you are doing.


USW Local 731 – Pixelle Specialty Solutions – Chillicothe, Ohio

It is with much sadness that we announce the loss of one of our union brothers. The brother lost his life last week when a string of cars consisting of a full chlorate tank and a boxcar collided with the engine he was riding on. The crew, consisting of three union brothers, were in the process of placing cars on the runaround and retrieving an empty box car when the incident occurred.

USW HSE staff Trish Creech responded to the fatality and is currently working with the local union leadership in this ongoing investigation. We will share the identified hazards and the corrective actions when the investigation is complete.

NIOSH Science blog posted: Skin Irritation from Prolonged Use of Tight-Fitting Respirators

With increased respirator use in workplaces, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) wrote a blog post addressing skin irritation from prolonged use of tight-fitting respirators. Skin irritation, caused by disposable filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) use for extended periods of time, has been documented during past outbreaks of respiratory infectious diseases.

Both elastomeric respirators and disposable FFRs must seal against a user’s skin, exerting pressure on the face, in order to effectively block particles from entering the breathing zone. Adverse effects of FFRs can include, but are not limited to, skin irritation, acne, skin discomfort, pressure on the nose, pressure-related skin damage, irritant dermatitis and allergic dermatitis. In addition to pressure applied to the skin, friction and moisture may contribute to skin and tissue damage. Friction can occur during normal working movement, including head or face movement, and when speaking or breathing. Moisture can accumulate within the respirator due to sweat, or humidity added to exhaled air by the airway and lungs with normal breathing.

Preventing skin irritation from disposable FFRs and elastomeric respirators starts with fit testing and proper use. FFR strap placement can prevent excessive pressure against the skin. Headbands should be placed according to the manufacturer’s user instructions, usually on the crown of the head and behind the neck, not resting on the ears. When a respirator can be taken off after use, it is ideal to have a break in pressure to ensure adequate blood flow to prevent skin damage.

For more tips and information on irritation from respirators, click here:

Product Recall – Honeywell Salisbury Pro-Wear Plus Fabric

Honeywell Salisbury released a product recall involving its Pro-Wear line of electrical PPE, as the fabric is not performing to stated specifications. The Westex, Style 301 Red fabric was found to perform lower than its stated Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV). The recall only involved the company’s red-colored fabric; other colors are performing to their stated arc ratings.

As a precautionary measure, Honeywell Salisbury is immediately recalling all Pro-Wear Plus Hoods, Coats, Coveralls, Shrouds and/or Kits that contain the Westex, Style 301 Red fabric. This will impact 8, 12, 20 and 40 Cal Standard garments. Pro-Wear Plus 40 Cal Premium and above are not impacted or part of this recall.

Industry Update

A Rundown of the Status of the Industries of the USW Paper Sector

Containerboard: Although actual July box shipments were up 3.1% vs. July 2019, this was due to one extra shipping day this year, with the result that average week shipments actually declined 1.6%.  The resulting “blended average box shipments” were up 0.8% roughly in line with analysts’ expectations.  Industry analysts also pointed out that July 2019 was particularly strong, making it the toughest comparison of the year. The operating rate fell to 89.4% vs. 90.1% last year, well below the 95% range considered healthy.  As a result of the low operating rate, inventories have a second significant monthly decline and are now more in line with historical norms. New capacity continues to be a concern with the recent Domtar announcement that it will convert the Kingsport mill to containerboard production and the Spanish company Saica’s announcement that it will enter the U.S. market with a new converting facility. Most analysts see this as a first step that will ultimately result in Saica adding containerboard production in the U.S.

Printing & Writing: Total printing & writing paper shipments dropped 26% in July vs. 2019.  Coated mechanical paper was the hardest hit, with shipments down 46% vs. a year ago.  Coated freesheet turned in the “best” performance with U.S. purchases down “only” 14%.

Boxboard: July total boxboard production was down 7% vs. 2019.  Year-to-date production was down 2% as compared to the same seven months of 2019.  July operating rate was 90.4%, down from 93.7% a year earlier.  Solid bleached sulfate was the hardest hit grade, with production down 15% vs. the prior year.

Retail Tissue: Since peaking in March with a 92% increase vs. the prior year, retail tissue sales have been trending downward, with statistics for the month from mid-June to mid-July showing a 7% increase vs. the prior year.  This is still well above the normal 1% - 2% annual growth expected in the tissue market, and no doubt results from a continuation of work from home restrictions and reduced travel.

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