Monday Morning Minute: Jan. 6, 2020

Union Work

USW Supports S.2941, the RECYCLE Act of 2019

The USW signed on to support Senate Bill 2941, the RECYCLE (Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education) Act of 2019, which would create a new federal grant program to educate households about residential and community recycling programs. The bipartisan bill would authorize spending up to $15 million per year over five years for recycling education and outreach grants. It would also direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a model recycling toolkit for states and local governments.

In a letter of support, USW International President Tom Conway wrote: “Recycling helps the environment and creates jobs, but successful recycling is often hampered by contamination or consumer confusion about constantly changing materials and rules. Community-specific education would go a long way toward helping well-intentioned consumers recycle with confidence.”

Many USW-represented paper companies buy and re-pulp recovered containerboard products to produce new containerboard rather than using raw materials. Improving recycling processes results in a more environmentally-friendly recovery process and provides more sustainable materials for such companies to use.

New York City Considering a Ban on Paper Receipts Coated with BPA

The New York City Council will hold hearings on a package of bills aimed at curtailing the use of paper receipts. The bills that the city council will consider in the next few months would restrict the use of BPA-coated paper, require stores to offer e-receipts and print them on recyclable paper, and mandate that businesses recycle the receipts.

In March 2019, California considered similar legislation that would have required businesses to provide customers with an electronic receipt instead of paper unless specifically requested. In August, that bill was rejected after legislators recognized that not only do consumers prefer paper receipts, but the bill would have cost the state significant funding to enforce it.

North America dominates the global thermal paper market with a revenue share of over 30 percent; Appvion is the key company in the U.S. that manufactures this type of paper. The USW represents nearly 1,000 members at each of the company’s coating and converting plants in West Carrollton, Ohio, Appleton, Wis., and Roaring Spring, Pa.

Did You Know?

From the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) – Pulp is the base to almost all paper products

The paper your grocery ad is printed on, the packaging your cereal or medicine comes in and the paper towels you use in the kitchen all started as wood pulp. Fluff pulp is used in absorbent and personal care items like diapers, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products. Dissolving pulp can be dissolved in a solvent and spun into textile fibers like rayon or Lyocell. It can be chemically reacted to be formed into fibers or films, or used as a thickener for other products.


USW 2019 Safety Update

In 2019, 46 fatalities were reported across all facilities and industries that the USW represents: Twenty-four were occupational, 20 were non-occupational (seven of which were suicides), and two were possibly occupational. The paper sector experienced two fatalities last year: Brother Brian LeClerc of Local 4-75, Gorham Paper & Tissue in Gorham, N.H., on November 18 and a contractor who was operating a forklift that overturned at the Graphic Packaging converting plant in West Monroe, La., on December 18. We came close to 2019 being the first full calendar year since the PACE and USWA merger with zero fatalities. The last fatality in the year prior was June 12, 2018. This means that we went one year, five months and six days without one—the longest period of time the USW has gone without a fatality at a represented paper sector location.

Despite these tragedies, paper shares the lowest rate of fatalities, along with the construction, container, electrical, heating A/C, industrial machinery and sheet metal industries. However, paper had the most life-altering injuries of any industry at 30 out of 126 total. Our fight continues in finding and fixing hazards that are causing fatalities and life-altering injuries.

From the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) Beacon – Explosion Fueled by Sugar Residue Killed 14 People and Destroyed Plant

In 2008, a sugar mill that had been operating for over 100 years experienced a massive explosion, which killed 14 people, injured 38 others and destroyed the plant. The mill had allowed sugar to accumulate around equipment and on structures, so when a plugged chute created a dust cloud that ignited, other explosions and fires occurred.

Although this concerns sugar as a combustible material, we know that the pulp and paper sector also experiences combustible dust. In addition, accumulated materials from the production process and packaging materials (plastic, paper/cardboard, wood) become fuel in the event of a fire or explosion. Minimizing these risks through housekeeping is essential. According to the CCPS, you should know the housekeeping expectations for your area and follow them. Note substandard housekeeping during your rounds and report it to your supervisor. Even better, clean it up while applying proper safety methods. For more information on what you can do to help prevent combustible dust, click here:

Industry Update

Sonoco and Ahlstrom-Munksjo Join CEPI’s Evergeen Alliance to Advance Fiber-Based Packaging

Sonoco and Ahlstrom-Munksjo announced that they would join 4evergreen, an international industry alliance formed by the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI). The goals of the alliance are to promote the role of fiber-based packaging to create a circular and more sustainable economy and to advocate for European legislation. The following USW paper companies were some of the first alliance members: Sappi, DS Smith, International Paper, Huhtamaki, Tatra Pak, WestRock and Graphic Packaging.

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, 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