Monday Morning Minute: Jan. 10, 2022

INCIDENT ALERTS

USW Local 340 – WestRock – Sheldon Springs, Vermont (Missisquoi mill)

On November 23, a USW member was seriously injured at WestRock’s paperboard mill in Sheldon Springs, Vermont. The member, an electrician, was on his knees working inside an electrical panel connected to a winder, when he was crushed.

The panel is located within a safety interlock gate to a new winder that had been installed within the last few months; there is a “push” to get it running. At the time of the incident, the crew was unaware that the victim was inside the gate working on the electrical box. The interlock door was closed, the light curtain was reset and the roll was released. As the roll moved down the conveyor, it pushed the open panel door closed and crushed the victim within the electrical box.

The victim was admitted to the hospital and the 4-person crew was sent home with pay. The local is conducting an investigation with assistance from USW Health, Safety and Environment staff.

USW Local 4-521 – Seaman Paper – Baldwinville, Mass. (Otter River mill)

A USW member was injured on December 11 at Seaman Paper’s Otter River specialty paper mill in Baldwinville, Mass., while working on the paper dryer rollers. The member’s hand was caught while trying to remove paper that was jammed in the machine, resulting in lacerations on his left hand. The member was treated at a local hospital and released.

USW Local 4-513 – Greif – Chicopee, Mass.

On December 15, a USW member was seriously injured at Greif’s Chicopee, Mass., paper tube converting site. The member suffered a hand amputation while working on a winder. USW Health Safety and Environment staff are developing a Winder Hazard Alert detailing lessons learned and recommendations around this incident, which we will send out to the sector when it is completed.

Union Work

A Few Bargaining Updates in the Sector

USW Local 1419 - DS Smith – Reading, Pa.New Agreement Ratified after 6 Months of Bargaining – USW Local 1419 ratified a new agreement on November 28 after more than six months of bargaining with DS Smith. Negotiations had stalled on big ticket items, including retirement, health care and vacation, but the local, which represents a paper mill, box plant and recycling facility in Reading, Pa., came together and stood strong.

During negotiations, the bargaining committee, with help from the USW Strategic Campaigns Department, shined a “bat light” style image on various structures at the mill and box sites, as well as on notable buildings around town, to spotlight the local’s fight and inspire solidarity. This was the first bat light action in the paper sector. The message

“Fair Contract Now” could be seen from locations all around the city and many miles away in surrounding towns.

Congratulations to the membership of USW Local 1419 for staying strong through tough bargaining and winning a new contract. A big ‘thank you’ goes out to the USW members from sister facilities in Riceboro, Georgia, and Workers Uniting members in the UK who showed unyielding solidarity during 1419's fight for a fair contract.

USW Local 2-172 – Dunn Paper – Menominee, Mich. – Local 2-172, representing Dunn Paper in Menominee, Mich., ratified a new agreement at the specialty paper mill that includes gains on wages, vacation and scheduling. In addition to a front-loaded wage pattern, members will no longer face forced overtime on shutdown weeks or be required to work on weekends prior to a scheduled vacation.

According to Staff Representative Chris Haddock: “This local committee took the time to educate each steward on the offer so they could better understand and explain the offer to the members.”

About the achievements of the new agreement, Local Union Vice President Steve Schmidt said: “Good wage gains. New language on vacation to our benefit!”

USW Local 4-75 – White Mountain Paper (Former Gorham Paper) – Gorham, N.H. – The membership of Local 4-75, representing White Mountain Paper in Gorham, N.H., ratified a new three-year agreement. Staff Representative Allen Smith said that there were no give-backs or negatives in the new agreement. One highlight that the local achieved, in addition to industry-standard wage increases and a health care premium split, is an increase in vacation time.

The contract was the first one with new owners, Behrens Investment Group, who purchased the mill in late 2020. In October, the tissue mill was forced to stop production after its boilers failed a third-party safety inspection, which is a requisite standard set by the N.H. Department of Labor. Some hourly workers were furloughed when the boilers were shut down, but maintained their benefits. Later this year, the company will be installing new boilers, as well as downsizing the facility to transform it into a more efficient operation.

Safety

Stock Tower Collapse – No Injuries

USW Locals 462, 1458 & 1978 – International Paper – Prattville, Ala. – IP Prattville – On November 6 at approximately 10:00 p.m., the No. 1 high density stock tank collapsed at International Paper’s Prattville, Ala., containerboard mill during a scheduled maintenance outage. When the tower failed, two rail cars containing acid tipped over, and power lines, piping and structural support for the utilities were impacted. The incident also took down the mill’s #1 paper machine, causing it to remain down until early this year. The #2 paper machine was already down for a scheduled outage and restarted in subsequent weeks. Together, the two machines comprise 2% - 2.5% of North American containerboard capacity and nearly 4% of North American linerboard capacity.

Thankfully, no one was in the area when the tank failed and there were neither injuries nor an adverse impact to the environment; however, if the event had occurred during the day, many people could have been seriously injured or killed.

Certain 3M Cross Over Style Harnesses do not Meet ANSI Z359.11 – NOT a Recall

3M is notifying customers of the following information related to the 3M DBI-SALA Delta, ExoFit, ExoFit Plus & ExoFit XP Cross Over Style Harnesses portfolios. During internal testing of certain 3M DBI-SALA Delta, ExoFit, ExoFit Plus & ExoFit XP Cross Over Style Harness models, 3M found that a percentage of tested units did not meet the ANSI Z359.11, Section 3.2.2.3.1 dynamic requirement on the front (sternal) D-ring. This test and the resulting forces are not representative of what would be seen in a real world application (i.e. when attached to a vertical cable sleeve with an energy absorbing device).

Affected styles can be found at the following link: Full-body harness product advisory (3m.com). If the non-compliance to the ANSI requirement is of concern to your site, inspect your Cross Over Style Harness label(s) to determine if it is one of the affected part numbers and was manufactured before May 1, 2021.

Once you have confirmed the part number & affected date, please contact 3M Customer Service at 1-833-638-2697 or at 3musfpserviceaction@mmm.com and provide contact information. More information can be found at the following link: XO-Harnesses-Advisory-ANSI-OSHA-093021.pdf (gravitec.com).

Industry Update

Verso to be acquired by Swedish Company BillerundKorsnas AB for Approximately $825 Million

USW Locals 2-21 & 2-94 – Verso – Escanaba, Mich., & Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. - On December 19, it was announced that BillerundKorsnas AB acquired Verso for approximately $825 million. The sale includes Verso’s Escanaba, Mich., mill, represented by USW Local 2-21, and its indefinitely idled mill in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., represented by USW Local 2-94.

The Sweden-based company, BillerundKorsnas AB, intends to convert the Escanaba mill into a “mega-mill” that will produce 1.2 million tons/year of paperboard by 2029. The mill currently has three machines that produce graphic paper, and the two-stage conversion project would cost approximately $1 billion.

The company has not yet announced its plans for the Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., mill, which idled its operations in July 2020. At one time, the mill employed 900 people; the effects of the closure have impacted not only the livelihoods of those who worked at the mill, but also the city’s tax base and industries that depended on the mill, like logging and restaurants.

Ahlstrom-Munksjo to Idle Three Paper Machines at its Rhinelander, Wis., Specialty Papers Mill

USW Locals 1778 & 2-15 – Ahlstrom-Munksjo – Rhinelander, Wis. – Ahlstrom-Munksjo idled its #8 paper machine in December 2021 and will be idling its #20 Supercalender and #21 Rewinder in July 2022 at the Rhinelander, Wis., mill. The #8 machine produces specialty paper, including label paper and bleached packaging/food paper, and has an annual capacity of 14,000 tons. The company announced that the idling of the machinery is temporary, and the #8 paper machine’s grades will be run on more efficient assets within its system in the meantime.

Indefinite Idling of Pulp and Paper Operations at Resolute Forest Products Calhoun Mill

USW Locals 9-790 & 899 – Resolute Forest Products – Calhoun, Tenn. – On December 16, Resolute Forest Products announced the indefinite idling of its pulp and uncoated paper operations in Calhoun, Tenn. Tissue manufacturing and converting will continue at the site, however, 350 jobs, out of a total of 545 at the mill, will be impacted by the decision. Operations will continue until about mid-February before they shut down.

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