Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 12, 2020

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 9-1197 – Hood Container – New Johnsonville, Tenn.

On February 1, 2020, a member was seriously injured at the Hood Container mill in New Johnsonville, Tenn., and sustained life-altering injuries. 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

The USW Paper Sector Engages in Policy Impacting Our Jobs

USW paper sector leadership met with the Pulp and Paper Resources Council last week to share perspectives on important issues impacting our jobs, as well as pensions and labor law reform.  Two USW members familiar with the black liquor process – Tim Wegner from USW Local 159, PCA in International Falls, Minn., and Jason Etheridge from USW Local 9-425, WestRock in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. – joined us in a meeting with the Natural Resources Defense Council to educate the non-profit environmental group about the paper industry and our clean energy jobs.  We also conducted our annual briefing with the American Forest & Paper Association to determine issues we can work on together to promote and defend our jobs.  Finally, we attended a congressional paper caucus reception to highlight our sector’s contribution to the economy and clean energy efforts.

It’s Time to Align Labor Law with Public Opinion and Empower Americans at Work

More than 70% of Americans say they would be in a union if they could, and they support the rights of Americans to collectively bargain. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would align labor law with public opinion by amending  the National Labor Relations Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote on February 6. The bill now moves to the Senate, and the USW is calling on our senators and our president to quickly pass the act.  USW International President Tom Conway stated: “So many politicians in Washington, including President Trump and members of the Senate, got elected by promising to stand up for workers. Now, we will find out if that was all just talk. The Senate should quickly pass the PRO Act, and the president should sign it. It’s time to take some of the power out of the hands of corporate America and Wall Street and give it back to working Americans.”

The PRO Act would prohibit employers from permanently replacing striking workers – a tactic first used against USW paperworkers who struck over important economic issues in the 1980s. The law also prohibits employers from forcing employees to attend “captive audience meetings” – mandatory anti-union meetings that employers require Americans seeking a union to attend as a condition of their employment. The act would also establish a much-needed process for obtaining a first contract between companies and newly certified unions – which would keep employers from threatening to diminish wages, hours and working conditions if workers vote in the union. Call your senators and tell them you want action on this bill.  To view the USW’s press release, copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/releases/2020/usw-applauds-house-passage-of-workers-rights-bill

USW Local 1505 – WestRock – Hodge, La. – Local Union President Celebrates 50 Years of Service

Local Union 1505 President Phil Thomas celebrated 50 years of service at the WestRock paper mill in Hodge, La., on May 15, 2019. Phil was an electrician at the mill and is currently a full-time president. Pictured below are Staff Representative David Broussard (left) and the mill manager (right) presenting Phil Thomas (middle) with an award for his service. Congratulations, Brother Thomas!

Safety

Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and Hazard Investigation Board Approved a Final Rule on Accidental Release Reporting

The rule requires prompt reports to the CSB from owners or operators of facilities that experience an accidental release of a regulated substance or extremely hazardous that results in a death, serious injury or substantial property damage. The CSB anticipates that these reports will provide the agency with key information important to the CSB in making prompt deployment decisions. The Chemical Safety Board has been involved in several incident investigations at USW-represented facilities in the paper sector, and USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Mike Wright submitted comments on behalf of the union for consideration during the ruling process.

Copy and paste the following link into your browser to view the prepublication version of the final rule: https://www.csb.gov/assets/1/6/prepublicationcopy2-3-20.pdf. The official version will be published early this week.

A YouTube Resource for Educators and Trainers – Historic Workplace and Environmental Health and Safety Films

The following YouTube channel includes more than 1,000 historic films and film clips on a wide range of workplace and environmental health and safety topics: http://www.youtube.com/user/markdcatlin. Most are taken from government and industrial films between the years 1912 and 2000. The films and clips range in length from 20 seconds to 60 minutes, and cover a variety of topics like OSHA 10 and 30 classes, emergency response, EHS academic classes, labor history classes, etc.

Industry Update

USW Locals 2-116, 1303, 731, & 988 – Verso, Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital Settle Proxy Contest

On January 31, Verso Corporation and private equity companies, Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital, reached an agreement to settle a pending proxy contest at Verso’s annual stockholders’ meeting. Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital collectively own about 9.43% of the outstanding common stock in Verso, and spoke out against Verso’s intent to sell two mills to Pixelle Specialty Solutions due to what they deemed a lack of transparency around the sales.

With the contested proxy battle resolved, Atlas/Blue Wolf will have three executive nominees appointed to Verso’s board of directors. Additionally, the private equity groups agreed to vote in favor of the sale of Verso’s Androscoggin mill located in Jay, Maine, and the Stevens Point, Wis., mill. The USW represents approximately 160 members at the Stevens Point mill, and also represents over 1,100 members at two facilities owned by Pixelle Specialty Solutions.                

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