Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 1, 2021

Union Work

Retired PACE Region 5 Vice President Don Langham has Passed

On January 23, Donald Langham, retired USW International Vice President, passed away due to complications of COVID-19. Langham had been a member, and then servicing staff representative, of United Papermakers and Paperworkers Local Union 265. He was later elected UPIU Region 5 Vice President, a position he held after the UPIU merger in 1999 with the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union to form PACE.

Langham was also active in international labor affairs, representing the United States and PACE on the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) Executive Committee. After PACE merged with the United Steelworkers union in 2005, he retired soon after.

Condolences can be sent to Brother Langham’s family by going online to Donald Langham Obituary (2021) - Mobile Register and Baldwin County or Donald Langham Obituary - Mobile, AL (dignitymemorial.com).

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474) is Back and being Moved Forward in Congress

On February 6, 2020, nearly a full year ago, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act on a bipartisan basis by a vote of 224-194. Unfortunately, the Senate did not bring the bill up for a vote in their chamber, so it did not move forward. It’s now a new session of Congress, and it is a priority to move what we know is the most comprehensive pro-labor legislation since the establishment of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

The PRO Act will: establish stronger and swifter remedies to stop employers from breaking the law, make companies recognize contractors as part of the collective bargaining process so they can no longer continue to whittle down our membership by subcontracting, and ensure an employer reaches a first contract in a timely manner with a newly organized group of workers. Plus, no more dragging out first contracts; reverses so-called Right to Work, regardless of state laws; prohibits employers from forcing employees to attend anti-union meetings, (and much more!).

The Committee on Education and Labor plans to reintroduce the PRO Act in the coming weeks, and this critical legislation could get a vote soon after in the U.S. House. We need to urge our Representatives to become an original cosponsor of the bill so we can expand protections for workers to exercise their rights to join a union and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.

In the USW paper sector, this PRO-worker legislation will be crucial as our box industry organizing project ramps up. The strong protections contained in the PRO Act will help to level the playing field in organizing and ensure we maintain new members. 

(Please remember to send names of any folks who would be a good fit to work on our ongoing organizing project within the corrugated box sector to Eric Licht, elicht@usw.org, 262-441-1551. As we previously reported in the MMM, we are looking for members who are knowledgeable about the paper sector.)

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Issues Determinations on Circumvention Inquiries for Uncoated Free Sheet Paper Rolls from Indonesia, Brazil and Australia

On January 22, 2021, the US Department of Commerce, acting on a request by domestic paper producers and the USW, found that uncoated paper rolls, imported from Indonesia and Brazil and then cut into sheets in the United States, were used to unfairly circumvent the antidumping and anti-subsidization orders on imports of uncoated paper sheets from those countries. Commerce made the same determination on rolls from China in December 2020.

All imports of rolls of paper from these countries (if the paper in the roll is the same as the types of paper the orders cover in sheets) will now be subject to the orders, so the antidumping and anti-subsidy duties will be applied to imported rolls from these three countries as well as to imports of sheets. If the importer can certify that the roll will not be cut into sheets in the United States, the duties will not apply, but many importers and U.S. paper converters who refused to cooperate with Commerce’s investigation are excluded from the certification program. Commerce also found that rolls from Australia were not being used to circumvent the orders, so the duties will not apply to rolls from Australia.

The USW continually works with legal counsel and international trade advocacy groups to spearhead investigations into unfair trade practices that impact our members.

USW Commends Executive Order Supporting Domestic Manufacturing

USW International President Tom Conway issued a statement in response to the announcement that President Joe Biden would sign an executive order tightening domestic content requirements and narrowing exceptions to existing domestic preference rules for federally funded projects. While the executive order is important to each manufacturing sector in our union, it is especially so for the paper sector because any of the goods that are produced domestically for large scale projects are transported around the country in a corrugated box. Invoices for projects are printed on uncoated free sheet paper or carbonless and mailed in an envelope. Paper tubes and cores have many industrial applications, as well as in the toilet paper rolls at job sites.

President Conway said: “When we undertake federally funded projects, we must ensure that our tax dollars support American production and jobs rather than our foreign competitors, who all too often seek to undermine our industries by flooding our markets with unfairly traded products. [The executive] order strengthening domestic content requirements, closing loopholes in how domestic content is measured and calling for stricter enforcement of existing legislation like the Jones Act is an important step toward revitalizing our manufacturing base, as well as protecting and creating thousands of good, family-sustaining jobs.

“Further, taking concrete steps to make it easier to identify and utilize U.S. suppliers, as outlined in the order, will help ensure we are efficiently meeting our own needs as we look to rebuild our long-neglected domestic supply chains.”

Safety

U.S. Department of Labor Issued Stronger Workplace Guidance on Coronavirus

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that OSHA issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. As part of an executive order signed on January 22, President Biden directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19, and the agency has until March 15 to issue emergency standards.

“Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

The guidance details key measures for limiting coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning. OSHA will update guidance over time as developments in science, best practices and standards warrant.

To view the updated guidance and recommendations titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” click here: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework

Industry Update

WestRock Global Malware Security Breach

A January 23 ransomware attack on WestRock caused the company to shift to operating some production processes manually. The company does not know what caused or who carried out the cyber-attack and why.

WestRock is the second largest containerboard producer in North America and the third largest in the world. Out of an abundance of caution, the company shut down certain systems, but has reassured employees and customers that related data has not been affected.

USW WestRock members went above and beyond to maintain production despite the event, and engaged with the company on issues around timekeeping and payroll, as these systems shifted to manual tracking during the event (these functions have since come back online). The USW also continues to actively communicate with the company to ensure that any impact to our membership is mitigated.

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