Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 24, 2020

Union Work

New Local Agreement Ratified at Huhtamaki

USW Local 449 – Huhtamaki – Waterville, Maine – On February 14, the membership of Local 449 Huhtamaki in Waterville, Maine, ratified a new contract covering over 450 workers. Highlights include a $0.15 improvement in shift differential over the life of the agreement, a significant increase in life insurance for active employees – instead of a flat amount, the rate is set at 1x the annual salary – resulting in a minimum of $9,000 increase for everyone (some will see more), and the addition of a sixth week of vacation for 35 years of service, which will affect about 75 members who qualify.

Much of bargaining was around the restructuring of the “Smooth Finish” Department.

According to Staff Representative Mike Higgins, “The company was really pushing to gain the ability to force manufacturing employees to work on their days off. This local has historically stood firm and rejected the notion of the company taking away more family time.  Manufacturing members on the bargaining committee did a wonderful job in explaining how the company’s current policies on scheduling and call-ins were antiquated and could be modified to give employees a longer window of opportunity to volunteer on their days off.”

Ultimately, the local agreed to open that window to two weeks in order to give the membership a chance to plan their family lives while giving them flexibility to volunteer for open shifts.

Ray Foster, a 44-year member and first time bargainer, said it best: “This was an eye-opener. I wish more people would get involved in keeping this union strong for the future.”

International Paper Mills Council Meeting

On February 20-21, over 80 local leaders from all of the 18 mills across the International Paper mill system met in Nashville to begin working on an agenda for bargaining and other council issues. The current Master Agreement expires August 31, 2021.

Breakouts on healthcare and maintenance were also held to track common issues across the mills. USW Strategic Campaigns staff led the group through exercises detailing what a council-wide bargaining campaign could look like, and assessed each location’s strengths and weaknesses. A photo of the full group is below, followed by the healthcare and maintenance breakouts.

Paper Sector Local Donated Raffle Proceeds to Kaukauna Area School District (KASD)

USW Local 2-20 – Ahlstrom-Munksjo – Kaukauna, Wis. – USW Local 2-20, which represents members at Ahlstrom-Munksjo in Kaukauna, Wis., (formerly Expera and before that Thilmany Paper) held a 50/50 raffle and donated half of the proceeds to the Kaukauna Area School District (KASD). The proceeds were used to remunerate the KASD Food Service Department for unpaid student meal balances.

Pictured below are: Lee Koehler, Tyler Rutten Rapid Response Coordinator, and Pam Mischler Chartwells.

Recall Notice

Textron Specialized Vehicles Recalls Gas-Powered Golf, PTV, Utility and Shuttle Off-Road Vehicles Due to Fire Hazard – The recall involves gas-powered E-Z-GO, Cushman and Tracker brand off-road vehicles manufactured from November 2018 through June 2019 with certain non-sequential serial numbers ranging from 3377720 to 3440924.  The serial number is located on the kick panel below the driver side seat. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled off-road vehicles and contact Textron Specialized Vehicles for a free repair.  Textron Specialized Vehicles is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Similar equipment is used in paper mills. View the full recall notice and steps you can take to mitigate the hazard by clicking here: 

Industry Update

Domtar to Acquire Appvion’s Point of Sale Paper Business

USW Local 266 – Appvion – West Carrollton, Ohio – Domtar announced that it will acquire Appvion’s point of sale paper mill in West Carrollton. The agreement includes the coater and related equipment located only at the West Carrollton, Ohio, facility as well as a license for all corresponding intellectual property. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020. The USW represents eight mills and now two converters with Domtar and two additional Appvion facilities – one mill in Roaring Spring, Pa., and a coated paper converting site in Appleton, Wis. Neither one will be affected by the sale. The successorship clause in the Appvion Master Agreement imbedded in the local contract insures our West Carrollton members’ jobs will continue without interruption and that Domtar will recognize the contract.

Tell Us Your Stories!

Has your local made a safety gain? Have you had a solidarity action? Done something to help your community? Made connections with other labor groups? Is your Women of Steel or Next Gen committee making waves? Have you had success in bargaining? 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