Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 8, 2021

FATALITY ALERT

USW Local 13-935 – Twin Rivers Paper – Pine Bluff, Ark.

On January 13, 2021, a USW member of Local 13-935 was fatally injured while working to clear debris from a malfunctioning oscillating blade. Preliminary information is that the member was pulled into the dryer section of the paper machine and was crushed.

The incident will be evaluated for corrective actions and a potential hazard alert as we learn more details.

Union Work

Georgia-Pacific Council Benefits Calls

The Georgia-Pacific mills and box shops met virtually with corporate representatives during the week of January 25 to review the company’s benefit platform and the existing health care plans in place. The Mill and Box Master National Agreements and Extensions expire later this year and the council is preparing for bargaining through virtual council meetings, targeted text messaging and other coordinated activities.

Why President Biden’s Department of Labor Picks Matter

President Biden recently picked former USW Health, Safety and Environment Assistant Department Head Jim Frederick to be Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is a card-carrying member of the Laborers Union, as Secretary of Labor. The significance of having fellow union members overseeing the Department of Labor and leading OSHA cannot be understated.

As head of the DOL, the labor secretary’s responsibilities include:

Various agencies responsible for workers’ issues fall under the umbrella of the DOL including OSHA, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. President Biden’s selection of union members and our allies to head key agencies like the DOL presents an opportunity for significant improvements to the laws and policies that impact our worksites, as well as how they are enforced.

Safety

Increasing the Effectiveness of Labor-Management Safety and Health Committees Training to be Offered Virtually

USW Health, Safety and Environment staff have been working to convert to a virtual format the “Increasing the Effectiveness of Labor-Management Safety and Health Committees” training, which typically is held in-person for interested locals and respective management counterparts. The workshops are part of the USW-Tony Mazzocchi Center’s “Preventing Fatalities and Improving Safety and Health in the Paper Sector” grant-funded project.

The workshop helps participants develop specific action plans to address several current health and safety concerns, such as problems with green-on-green training and training in general, as well as excessive hours of work. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on how to participate.

Industry Update

USW Local 412 – Dixie Consumer Products – Easton, Pa.

We reported last month that the Dixie Consumer Products facility in Easton, Pa., owned by Georgia-Pacific, would be closing by the end of the year. Local newspaper, the Morning Call, produced a story featuring an interview from USW Local 412 financial secretary and printing operator Dennis Andrews. In the interview, Andrews said “…he’ll remember the people he worked alongside at the Dixie plant. He’ll remember how they helped one another. He’ll remember how multiple generations of the same family worked at the plant over the years.” His aunt and uncle, in fact, retired from the facility.

The site began producing coated paper cups under the previous owner, Fort James Corporation. Like other products that are consumed outside the home and in offices, disposable Dixie cups, plates, forks, knives, etc, have suffered from low demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer people working out of the house, grabbing to-go beverages or daily coffee, or using cups at water coolers has hurt demand. While Georgia-Pacific will continue to make the Dixie line of products, it will consolidate operations at an existing site in Kentucky.

To read more on the history of the site and the full interview with Andrews, click here: https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-biz-georgia-pacific-closing-longtime-forks-township-plant-20210130-72yijjuj75gundgjrkngm73joi-story.html

From Two Sides – Global Anti-Greenwash Campaign: 710 Companies Removed Misleading Anti-Paper Statements

Since 2010, the Two Sides campaign has successfully influenced the change or removal of misleading environmental claims by more than 700 organizations globally and more than 130 in North America, including many of the world’s largest corporations. With pressure on the economy, banks, utility companies and governmental organizations are increasingly focused on switching their customers from paper to digital services to cut costs. All too often, their customer communications attempt to mask these cost-saving efforts, justifying the switch with unfounded environmental marketing appeals such as “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save a tree.”

Not only are these greenwash campaigns in breach of established environmental marketing rules, but they are hugely damaging to an industry which has a solid and continually improving environmental record. Far from “saving trees,” a healthy market for forest products such as paper encourages the long-term growth of forests through sustainable forest management. Greenwashing is a serious issue for our industry, and because of the huge reach of some of these greenwashing organizations, their unsubstantiated claims have a damaging effect on consumer perceptions of paper and threaten a sector which employs 7.6 million people across the United States and Canada—many of them being USW-members.

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