Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 3, 2020

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 2-1010 – Graphic Packaging – Kalamazoo, Mich.

On January 19, 2020, two members were seriously injured at the Graphic Packaging mill in Kalamazoo, Mich., 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

Press Conference Held at Marcal Paper mill One Year after Massive Fire

USW Local 870 – Soundview Paper (Marcal Paper) – Elmwood Park, NJ – On January 31, a press conference was held in honor of the Marcal Paper mill, which suffered a devastating eight-alarm fire last year on January 30. The mill was mostly destroyed, including 21 paper-converting lines, and almost 500 good-paying, union jobs were jeopardized. The company has been gradually restarting operations, and used the press conference to announce that it is resuming full-time, 24/7 operations on one of the surviving paper machines.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy spoke, as well as Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. and USW District 4 Director Del Vitale. About the mill, Director Vitale said, “For many, this was like a second family and, in fact, with all the overtime some of them worked, many of the workers probably spent more time here with their coworkers than with their families. That’s why when the company went through hard times over the years, Local 870 and its members worked together with management to see Marcal through to another day.”

Pictured below are District 4 Director Del Vitale, Representative Pascrell, current Staff Representative of the mill, Steve Green, and former Staff Representative Luke Gordon.

Local Holds its First Next Generation Committee Meeting

USW Local 1915 unit 2 – Green Bay Packaging – Fremont, Ohio – After attending the NextGen Conference last year, the committee members wanted to bring that education and experience back to their local to help mentor other young activists into future leaders for the labor movement. The committee is pictured below.

For information on how your local can get involved in NextGen, click here: https://www.usw.org/act/activism/next-generation

Safety

New USW Corporate-wide Health, Safety & Environment Coordinator Selected at Verso Corporation

USW Locals 2-21, 2-116, 2-94 and 2-187 – Verso Corporation – Escanaba, Mich., Stevens Point, Wis., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – A new USW corporate-wide Health, Safety & Environment coordinator was selected at Verso covering three USW-represented mills in Escanaba, Mich., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and Stevens Point, Wis. The new coordinator, Joe Curran, USW Local Union 2-21, previously served as the union’s Lockout/Tagout coordinator at the Escanaba mill.

The USW and Verso worked in the spirit of cooperation on the logistics and structure of the position. This position had been open since the closure of the Verso mill in Luke, Md., where the previous corporate-wide safety representative, Tim Evans, USW Local 676, was based.  We want to recognize and thank Brother Evans for his outstanding work and the support of USW Local Union 676 for finding and fixing hazards in our workplaces.

USW Health, Safety and Environment Assistant Director Steve Sallman’s Senate Testimony

Steve Sallman testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on January 29 on the importance of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). He emphasized the need to fill vacant seats on the board, have sufficient funding and have sufficient staff to investigate incidents. He said that paper mills are essentially chemical plants that manufacture paper, and are locations where the USW has experienced some of the highest number of fatalities.

Sallman highlighted a few incidents within the paper sector, including a triple-fatality incident in 2008, where a tank containing a mixture of recycled pulp and water exploded; the CSB investigators and resources were invaluable to the employer and USW in the fact-finding after the incident. The CSB also helped bring the industry’s attention to the largely unrecognized hazard of recycled paper pulp and water in tanks.

click here to view a video of the hearing: https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=AC86E1F2-3A8A-473E-80BB-7F338CAC16F6.

Note the first 18:45 of video is blank as the hearing started late; view Steve’s testimony beginning at 43:16.

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

The Chemical Safety Board Released a Second Video on Triple Fatality Explosion Incident – On January 29, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a second video about PCA DeRidder to bring attention to process safety management and atmospheric tanks. The video is called “Uncovered Hazards: Explosion at the DeRidder Pulp and Paper Mill.”

The CSB and USW agree that this video will provide more information for the paper industry and other stakeholders to learn and improve to prevent future incidents.

To view the video, copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://www.csb.gov/videos/

Industry Update

Graphic Packaging Repurchased a Portion of International Paper’s Equity Ownership

Graphic Packaging is buying back approximately one-fifth of International Paper’s 20.5 percent effective equity ownership in Graphic Packaging International for $250 million. International Paper’s ownership interest will decrease to 18.3 percent from 21.6 percent. In 2017, the two companies formed a partnership comprised of Graphic Packaging’s existing businesses and International Paper’s North America Consumer Packaging business.

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 Jim McKay

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