Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 22, 2021

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 13-725 – Packaging Corporation of America – DeRidder, La.

On February 16, 2021, a member working day shift in the woodyard was seriously injured at the PCA mill in DeRidder, La. The member fell while he was in the process of cleaning the C-line at the mill, which had been on double coverage due to bad weather in the area. It is unclear from what height he fell or the extent of his injuries. He was admitted to a hospital in DeRidder. We will follow up with more information if there are lessons to be learned that are applicable to the sector.

Union Work

HOLD-THE-DATE – Virtual National Paper Bargaining Conference – July 20 through 22

Local leaders and staff should hold the dates of July 20-22 to participate in the 9th National Paper Bargaining Conference.

The conference will take place virtually due to continued COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions, but we have an exciting lineup of educational workshops, panels and more planned—all geared specifically toward and highlighting the great work of our paper sector members.

Stay tuned for an official hold-the-date memo to be released the first week of March.

Georgia-Pacific Virtual Box Meetings Series

Last week, Georgia-Pacific box locals participated in the fourth, and final, of a series of virtual meetings with the aim of beginning preparations around bargaining a new master agreement.

The 15 sites covered by the master were split into groups of three to four locals based on expiration date. The smaller group sizes allowed for more in-depth discussion and collaboration around issues like overtime and staffing, and brainstorming of bargaining agenda items.

The groups were also joined by Strategic Campaigns staff, who debuted a text messaging system for the council and helped each site assess their membership’s strengths and weaknesses. We look forward to bringing all 15 sites together for a larger virtual session in the coming weeks to continue this important work.

Safety

US Department of Labor’s OSHA Issues Proposed Rule to Update Hazard Communication Standard

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a proposed rule to update the agency’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The Hazard Communication Standard provides a standardized approach to workplace hazard communications associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals. OSHA updated the standard in 2012 to align with the third revision of the United Nations’ GHS to provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information.

Paper mills employ many various and dangerous chemicals in nearly every aspect of papermaking.

The update is expected to increase worker protections, and reduce the incidence of chemical-related occupational illnesses and injuries by further improving the information on the labels and Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals.  OSHA preliminarily determined that the proposed modifications would enhance the effectiveness of the standard by improving dissemination of hazard information so employees are more appropriately apprised of exposure to chemical hazards in the workplace.

We anticipate seeing an increase in guidance, inspections and other enforcement items from OSHA over the initial couple of years of Biden’s presidency.

Industry Update

Appvion Carbonless Paper Mill in Roaring Spring, Pa, to Close by March/April

USW Local 10-422 – Appvion – Roaring Spring, Pa. – On February 15, Appvion suddenly announced to employees that it would close its mill in Roaring Springs, Pa., by March 23 of this year. The mill has produced over 450 grades of carbonless, security, colored, high-speed inkjet and archival papers since its opening in 1866. The company cited added stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic on top of an already competitive market.

On the same day, it was announced that Pixelle Specialty Solutions would buy Appvion’s book of business, including the carbonless rolls and security paper business, but not its production assets. The carbonless rolls business from the Roaring Spring mill will be moved to Pixelle’s USW-represented Chillicothe, Ohio, mill (USW Locals 731 and 988), and security papers will either be manufactured by Pixelle or another supply partner.

Regarding the closure, USW Local Union President Mitch Becker said:This is a sad time for the rural community of Roaring Spring, Pa. In the coming months I think it will be hard to find a single person not personally impacted by the upcoming closure. The announced closure of the Appvion Roaring Spring paper mill in April will impact every person and business in the community. Approximately 300 people work at the paper mill, but as in most rural areas, the businesses support each other. So, its closure will affect many more people than just those working at the mill. The mill has provided a family-sustaining wage to its employees for over 150 years. The announcement was devastating to the employees. It left many wondering what is next.

“The company, USW HQ and local union leaders have been working together to try and keep the mill viable since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2018. In 2019, company, USW HQ and local union leaders all agreed to restructure the staffing of the mill to reduce cost and improve flexibility. Over the year 2020, the local union and company leaders continued to try and reduce costs at the mill. It was to no avail, as COVID-19 accelerated the decline in the carbonless business. This is not how I wanted to end my 25-year papermaking career.”

Members of Recently Closed Cascades Tissue Facilities in Pittston and Ransom, Pa., Qualify for TAA Benefits

USW Local 1448 – Cascades Tissue – Pittston and Ransom, Pa. – USW members who worked at the recently shut Cascades Pittston and Ransom, Pa., tissue and converting operations were deemed qualified to received Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), per a February 16 letter received from the Department of Labor.

USW staff filed the petition in October under the stipulation that the company’s press release announcing the closures stated that its production volume would be moved to other Cascades sites in the U.S. and Canada.

Those workers who became partially or totally separated from employment at either facility on, or after, October 2019 are eligible to apply for adjustment assistance. TAA provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. If a petition is approved, as it was in this case, workers can become eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support and other reemployment services.

International Paper has Further Reduced its Stake in Graphic Packaging

International Paper further reduced its stake this month in Graphic Packaging through two transactions totaling $400 million.

In 2020, International Paper also decreased its shares twice. With the current divestment, its ownership stake in Graphic Packaging is roughly 7 percent.

The two companies entered into a Consent and Waiver Agreement in 2018 when Graphic Packaging acquired two solid bleached sulfate paper mills from International Paper, both USW-represented – one located in Texarkana, Texas, and the other in Augusta, Ga.

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