Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 13, 2017


Fatalities Alert

USW Locals 1226 & 13-725 – Packaging Corporation of America – DeRidder, LA

At approximately 11:10 am CST, Wednesday, February 8th, there was an explosion at the PCA, DeRidder, LA paper mill that resulted in the death of three employees of Elite Specialty Welding, Jody Gooch, 40, William Rolls Jr., 32, and Sedrick Stallworth, 42.  Of the seven who were injured, one was hospitalized, treated and released.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation.  OSHA and the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) are also on site. 

On Sunday, February 5th a portion of the mill was in a normal annual outage.  At the time of the incident, the recovery boiler, lime kiln, pulp mill and D1 paper machine were down and the D3 paper machine was running (and at this time continues to operate). The preliminary assessment indicates the incident involved annual repair work and hot work was being performed by contractors on piping above the Stripper Feed Tank – also known at the mill’s “Foul Condensate Tank” in the Pulp Mill area.  It appears that hot work had been completed and the crew was down-rigging before the incident occurred.   At this time it remains unknown as to what caused the 25-foot tall Foul Condensate Tank to be blown upward from its base.  The blast blew the tank over a six-story precipitator building and it ultimately came to rest between the recovery boiler building and the Power/Recovery stack.

Union Work - Collective Bargaining, Organizing, Arbitration, Worker Rights, Community Work, Political Work, Labor History

USW Wins Case at International Trade Commission That Will Help Restore Fair Pricing for Off-the-Road Tires

After a 5-0 vote, the U.S. ITC found that imports of certain new pneumatic off-the-road tires are causing material injury to U.S. producers and workers. Previously, the U.S. Department of Commerce had determined that the subject tires from India were being dumped into the U.S. market and that both India and Sri Lanka were providing subsidies which resulted in the tires being sold at less than fair value in the United States.

“This ruling is very welcomed by all American tire workers,” said USW International Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson, who chairs the union’s national rubber and tire bargaining conference. “Once again through the aggressive use of our trade laws, we have protected good-paying, family-supporting jobs and preserved market share for American employers from unfair and illegal trade practices.

Social Security Administration Creates Burden for Americans by Suspending Mailing Social Security Statements to Workers Under 60

he Social Security Administration has decided to suspend the mailing of Social Security Statements to workers under the age of 60. The move comes despite a measure in the Fiscal Year 2014 funding bill requiring the SSA to “significantly restore” the mailing of earnings statements. In response to Congress’ 2014 directive, the agency resume mailing a statement every five years to every American ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, who has not signed up for online statements.

Consumers for Paper Options, a coalition that advocates for access to important paper-based services and information, expressed a strong opposition to the decision. John Runyan, executive Director for the coalition stated, “While earnings statements are currently available online, wage-earners must first create an account and provide sensitive personal information before being granted access. This presents a significant burden for the one-third of Americans without internet access, as well as those with cybersecurity concerns.” 


Inspection Notice – Lad-Saf X2 & X3

3M Fall Protection (formerly Capital Safety) has identified a limited number of Lad-Saf X2/X3 sleeves with the locking lever not working properly. This condition can allow the sleeve to disengage from the cable during use. The assembly error is believed to affect only a limited number of units and has been corrected.

End-users should immediately conduct an inspection. This inspection is part of the pre-use inspection recommended for all X2 (#6160030) and X3 (#6160054) sleeves as described below. If you find an affected sleeve, remove the sleeve from service and contact our Customer Service department at 800-328-6146 (prompt #2012) or email to obtain a return authorization. Upon receipt of the affected sleeve, you will be shipped a replacement sleeve within 24 hours at no charge.

For further information, go here.

Industry Update

USW Locals 444, 1561 & 9-447 – International paper – Cantonment, FL (Pensacola Mill) –Impact on Production from Explosion in January

The explosion of the continuous digester has left the Pensacola mill idled since the end of January. Analysts now believe the mill is expected to be up and running at some point in Q2, with the goal to have it fully ramped at soon as possible.

IP reportedly does not need to replace the digester that exploded. It has plans to repair it. February and March are typically heavy maintenance periods for US mills. The timing of the outage will no doubt keep the domestic kraftliner market very tight through the spring. The accident removed ~2% of kraftliner capacity through Q1 and part of Q2, further tightening the kraftliner market in Europe.

A firmer estimate of timing and costs of the mill’s re-start is expected to come before the end of the first quarter.

USW Local 10-701 – Domtar – Johnsonburg, PA – Domtar to Invest $25 Million at the Paper Mill and Shift to Natural Gas

Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, announced that Domtar will make significant infrastructure and equipment upgrades at its facilities in Johnsonburg and DuBois. USW represents members at the Johnsonburg facility. The move will retain 438 current positions across both mills over the next three years.

Domtar plans to convert the energy supply at the Johnsonburg mill in order to remain globally competitive. The move from coal to natural gas will help to improve the mill’s energy and water reduction, and to upgrade the facility’s boilers, turn up devices, causticizers, liquor retention tank, and threading equipment.

The Company received a funding proposal from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development that includes $75,000 in WEDnetPA funding for employee training. The Company was also approved by the Commonwealth Financing for a $1 million Pipeline Investment Program grant for the installation of a three-mile natural gas pipeline to the facility in Johnsonburg.


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