Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 14, 2022

Union Work

USW Local 12943 – Domtar – Kingsport, Tenn.

Employees have Started to Return to Work at Domtar’s Kingsport Mill after Major Conversion – Employees and USW members have started to return to work at the Domtar mill in Kingsport, Tenn., after a shutdown related to the site’s conversion to containerboard. Maintenance team and employees in the power area family were the first wave to come back on November 29, followed by the machine family on January 5; the rest of the staff is due back this month.

Notably, everyone on the recall list has been called back, meaning that those who wanted to transition to a position at the new site have had the opportunity to do so. The mill is working to hire additional people, and according to Local Union 12943 Vice President Teddy White, immediately prior to the transition, Domtar is collecting referrals from current employees to fill the remaining open positions.

“This is big because we want to take care of our families, and those of us in the union will be able to highlight the importance of the USW,” White said.

Production team members are participating in safety training, field work and other course instruction around the new equipment they will run. In addition to new containerboard-producing equipment, the mill is also debuting a natural gas-fired recovery boiler with the ability to burn materials that would have ended up in a landfill previously.

Construction on the mill is expected to be complete in the second quarter of this year. While the layout and many processes of the site are new, its familiarity still exists to those who have returned.

“The majority of us are pleased to be back; everyone is glad to be back home,” White said.

Valentine’s Day and the Paper Industry

Valentine’s Day is the second-largest holiday for sending greeting cards in the United States, behind the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, etc. Approximately 145 million cards will be exchanged industry-wide this year. While the first commercially printed Valentine’s Day card was produced in 1913 by Hallmark, the oldest known Valentine’s greeting written on paper is from the 1400s and is currently being held in the British Museum.

In a study conducted by the National Retail Federation, a total of $23.9 billion is expected to be spent in the U.S. for Valentine’s Day this year, and about 40 percent of respondents expected to purchase a greeting card. USW-represented companies, like Monadnock Paper Mills, Pixelle Specialty Solutions and Verso make the specialty paper that turns into these revered products.


Inspection Notice – Select 3M Protecta Self Retracting Lifelines

3M Fall Protection has identified a potential manufacturing issue with a limited number of 3M Protecta Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRL) with galvanized or stainless-steel lifelines produced in September 2021. This manufacturing issue could result in the SRL not engaging properly, but can be easily detected through the pre-use inspection as specified in the Instruction for Use (IFU) document.

There have been no reports of injuries or accidents associated with the issue, but 3M is issuing a “stop use and inspect” notice, and recommends that all self-retracting lifelines be inspected prior to every use and by a competent person annually.

If you suspect your paper site may have an impacted model in use, you should first locate the label on the SRL to identify the manufacture date and lot number. If the SRL has a manufacture date of 21/SEP (September 2021) and lot number 21093746, then try to pull the lifeline quickly to ensure that the SRL locks up.

As per the IFU, “Ensure the device locks up when the lifeline is jerked sharply. Lockup should be positive with no slipping.” If the SRL locks up properly and passes all other aspects of the pre-use inspection as defined in the IFU, the SRL is acceptable for use. If you find that your SRL does not lock up, take the Protecta SRL out of service immediately. For more information and a full list of affected part numbers, click the following link: Final-Protecta-SRL-Inspection-Notice-USAC-Eng-013122.pdf (

Industry Update

USW Local 175 – Port Townsend Paper – Port Townsend, Wash. – Port Townsend Paper Mill Fire

The Port Townsend Paper containerboard mill located in Port Townsend, Wash., experienced a fire on January 22. The fire started on the site’s 200-foot, wood chip conveyor belt structure, which reaches up to the sixth floor of the mill. The structure partially collapsed and its fire sprinkler system was damaged; however, the fire did not spread to the sixth floor.

No employees were hurt in the incident, but the damage to the mill is estimated to be more than $500,000. The cause of the fire is still unknown at this time.

Five Former Mill Towns in Maine will Share Grant Money to Redevelop Paper-Making and Forest-Product Sites – Five former mill towns in the state of Maine will share $120,000 in grant funds to reinvigorate their forest-product facilities for new uses. The money will come from FOR/Maine (Maine’s Forest Opportunity Roadmap)—a cross-sector collaboration between industry, communities, government, education and non-profits—and Maine Development Foundation. Recipients of grant money include communities that housed several former USW-represented sites, including Lincoln Paper & Tissue, Madison Paper and Great Northern Paper.

Between the years of 2011 and 2017, six USW-represented paper mills closed and the Maine paper industry lost more than 2,400 jobs. Declining global demand for paper and foreign competition are just two of the multitude of reasons for the closures.

The communities will receive between $20,000 and $30,000 to transition the local economies to be more sustainable and diverse. Projects include updating Maine Department of Environmental Protection permits so that facilities can be repurposed for modern uses; updating engineering studies and business models for industrial-grade wastewater processing to convert agricultural and municipal waste into a renewable natural gas; electrical and heating studies of latent buildings in the Great Northern Paper complex to help determine future repurposing options.

According to a press release, FOR/Maine Communities Committee Chair Charlie Spies stated: “This approach proves that a coordinated and concerted effort that focuses on regional needs rather than just one group or community can lift all ships and revive century-old, forest-based economies throughout Maine.”

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