Monday Morning Minute: July 15, 2019

Union Work

Visit to a Local Box Shop (from Laura Donovan)

USW Local 14693 Unit 108 – International Paper – Eighty Four, PA

I recently had the opportunity to tour a local box shop for the very time. For someone that reads contracts and looks at wage scales all day, to actually see those jobs and the machines that they utilize in action was eye opening to say the least.

Unit Chair Colt Kovatch helped guide me through the shop. While walking the floor, I was shown the large corrugator machine in action. For those who do not work in a converter, you might find a description of how your paper/board is turned into corrugated material. The machine consists of a series of large rollers that pull paper sheets through as it is processed and turned into corrugated board.

The paper is fed through a set of corrugating rollers, which looked like large tubular gears, at which time heat is applied and the medium is permanently impressed with a crimped structure called fluting. The fluted section moves on to the single-facer station where it is glued to a flat sheet of paper using a starch-based adhesive and more heat. The process is then repeated to add a second face to the other side.

The corrugator at this facility makes single, double, and up to triple wall corrugated boxes. Tri-wall packaging is heavy-duty and consists of three sections of corrugated material attached to four flat “faces” and is often used to make moving boxes, like those that you would get at home improvement stores. Primary customers for this box shop include Amazon and other local businesses. The design shop creates custom boxes and printing plates to apply unique stamped labels.

Those of you who work in a shop like this every day might not think much of it when you go to work and operate these large, complicated and loud machines, but for the uninitiated, it is quite impressive and provides an even deeper appreciation for the work that you do!

Local Leaders Rally in Washington, DC in Support of Butch Lewis Act to Protect Multiemployer Pension Plans 

USW Local 13-1331 – International Paper – Campti, LA (Red River Mill)

On July 10th, a group of USW members traveled to Capitol Hill to help build support for HR 397, also known as the "Butch-Lewis Act". The bill would provide assistance for struggling multi-employer pension plans, like PIUMPF (Pace Industry Union Management Pension Fund) by extending low-interest loans. If nothing is done, the Federally-backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is expected to run out of money for its multiemployer insurance program in about 6 years.

Approximately 130 retirement plans expected to provide benefits for roughly 1.3 million American workers and retirees are at risk of cutting hard-earned benefits.

Among the workers making the trip is Cedric McClinton, president of USW Local 1331, who works at the International Paper facility in Campti, La. The workers there still have some service in a struggling multiemployer pension plan from before they were purchased by IP an some retirees who still participate in full or at partial service in the plan. "Congress needs to understand the seriousness of this situation. We have a significant number of people who worked at the mill for more than 40 years who are retired now, and this pension is their main source of income," said McClinton, who estimated that the pension plan covers about 250 active and 100 retired workers. "Given the opportunity, I'll do anything I have to do to help them."

Did You Know?

Paper cups often have the lowest carbon footprint among coffee cups, study finds; ceramic cups need to be used at least 350 times before they have a smaller carbon footprint to paper cups, with dishwashing having the biggest climate impact.


Reminder Information on Emergency Response Team Protocol

In the event of any fatal, disabling or life-threatening injury at your workplace to any of our members, non-members or any other worker at your workplace, including contractors, the USW local union president or unit chair should notify the ERT immediately via the EMERGENCY RESPONSE HOTLINE: 866-526-3480.  The USW would like to know about and track these types of events as we know that hazards don’t discriminate and we want these hazards eliminated/controlled to prevent a recurrence of such.

The local union should also notify the servicing staff representative. If possible, please have the member’s name and the local union number available, as well as the company name. If you know a hospital name, please have that available.

USW Emergency Response Team (ERT) Toll-Free 24-Hour Hotline Assistance: 1-866-526-3480.

Industry Update

USW Local 445 – Flambeau River Papers – Park Falls, WI

Flambeau River Papers to Reopen – Flambeau River Papers shut down the last of its three paper machines on June 14th and laid off approximately 150 USW members due to declining demand for uncoated freesheet paper. The Company went into receivership earlier this year and has been operating under a court-appointed trustee.

On July 8th, it was announced that the Company would reopen and call back some laid off workers beginning this week as it continues to seek a buyer. The Company expects the reopening of the mill to maximize the value of its assets. Flambeau will be put up for sale at an auction in late August. The USW has been working with the Company and legal counsel to secure financing and keep this facility operating.

Greif Exploring Potential Sale of Consumer Products Business

USW Locals 1216, 675, & 743 – Greif (Consumer Packaging Business) – Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Tama, IA – 

Greif is evaluating strategic alternatives, including a potential sale, for its consumer packaging business. The business consists of its newly-acquired coated recycled paperboard business and related folding carton converting system, which includes 3 mills and seven carton plants. Two mills located in Los Angeles, CA and Tama, IA, and 1 converter located in Chicago, IL are represented by the USW.

At the beginning of this year, Greif completed the purchase of Caraustar Industries for $1.8 billion. Caraustar had been the second largest producer of uncoated recycled paperboard and fourth largest coated recycled paperboard producer in the U.S. The USW represents nearly 150 members across the three facilities that would be affected by a sale.

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