Monday Morning Minute: July 14, 2020

Union Work

A Message from USW International President Conway – USMCA: Enforcement or Bust

In a blog post, USW International President Conway details the necessity of strictly enforcing the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), which took effect on July 1. While the USW and other labor unions opposed NAFTA, the previous trade agreement between the same countries, the USMCA will benefit workers via labor protections that didn’t previously exist.

Conway states: “The agreement provides Mexican workers a mechanism for reporting labor violations, and it enables the U.S. and Canadian authorities, unions and other parties to investigate suspected abuses. Corporations that violate labor protections could even have their goods blocked at the U.S. border. These provisions have life-changing potential for millions of families throughout North America.

Free to organize unions without risking their lives, Mexican workers could at long last throw off corporate tyranny and negotiate the family-sustaining wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions their employers denied them. They would even be able to afford products made in the U.S. and Canada.

As these workers improve their standard of living, corporations would lose the incentive to shift U.S. or Canadian jobs to Mexico. That would end 25 years of offshoring that hollowed out American manufacturing communities, eroded the nation’s industrial capacity and enabled employers to hold down U.S. workers’ wages on the threat of relocating still more jobs. Rising wages in Mexico would even force U.S. and Canadian employers to pay their own workers more. Instead of being exploited on both sides of the border, workers could use their collective strength to hold corporations accountable.”

In order for the USMCA to have these desired effects on workers, the new labor protections must be enforced. The trade deal is just a starting point. To read the post in-full, click here.

USW Local 4-513 – Cenveo – Chicopee, Mass. – Local Union 4-513 and Management Worked together to Make Masks at beginning of COVID-19 Pandemic

Well before face masks became standard personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Local 4-513 at the Cenveo facility in Chicopee, Mass., took steps to protect themselves. A handful of members with sewing experience made masks for themselves and their co-workers using a sewing machine and fabric supplied by the plant manager. The manager’s mother helped, too.

But first, Donna Blohm, the local’s financial secretary, designed a prototype from scratch.

 “I spent parts of two days working on different options, trying to figure out what would work,” she explained. At the time, face masks already were in short supply, even in hospitals, and many corporations hadn’t yet provided them to workers at manufacturing sites.

So, USW members and management at Chicopee acted themselves. The finished masks were placed in baggies and made available to all workers. “It made everybody feel a little bit better,” Blohm said, noting she and her co-workers have been busy during the pandemic making envelopes for the mail-in ballots expected to play a crucial role in the 2020 election.

Safety

Coming Soon – Live, Virtual Health and Safety Trainings

USW Health, Safety and Environment staff, along with the Tony Mazzocchi Center, are working on developing a virtual training curriculum for the “Union Approach and Effective Committees” class. We know that there has been a high demand for this class, and the union is working hard to get this new training out to our membership. We will keep you informed as to when the class will be available for scheduling.

FDA Update on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol

FDA is warning consumers and health care providers that the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.

The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that have led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.

Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing. The agency will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidently ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk.

Industry Update

USW Local 1069 – Sappi – Westbrook, Maine – Sappi to Permanently Shut One Paper Machine and Energy Components of the Westbrook Mill

On July 9, Sappi announced that it will be permanently shutting down PM9 at its mill located in Westbrook, Maine, along with major components of its energy complex. This closure is part of an overall cost restructuring plan which includes shifting the Westbrook mill’s production to the company’s other mills located in Cloquet, Minn., represented by USW Local 11-63, and Skowhegan, Maine (Somerset mill), represented by USW Local 4-9.The Westbrook mill will continue to produce specialty coating, texture application and customized product designs in support of its Casting and Release Paper business.

The machine shut is expected to impact about 75 employees total; the USW represents about 140 members at the mill. The local will begin effects bargaining in the next couple of weeks.

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