Monday Morning Minute: July 26, 2021

Union Work

Virtual Paper Conference Recap

We wanted to give a huge thank-you to those of you who joined us last week at the National Paper Bargaining conference; despite the challenges associated with a virtual conference, it was a successful 2 ½ days. For those of you who were unable to attend the conference, most sessions were recorded, and we will be working over the next several weeks to provide shareable links, along with the videos and documents from the conference.

The primary objective of the conference was to set the 2021 National Paper Bargaining Policy, which guides the sector’s work in safety and bargaining for the next two years. The Policy Committee enacted the policy with three additional pieces around mandatory overtime, two-tier programs and infectious disease (pandemic) issues.

The conference also featured informative presentations on COVID-related market conditions, greetings from our global union counterparts at IndustriALL, UNI Global Union, CFMEU and Unite, and a state of the union address from USW International Vice President Fred Redmond. Redmond recognized that a recent victory by workers at Bishop Noa Nursing Home in Escanaba, Mich., to obtain a first contract was bolstered by paperworkers from USW Local 2-21 at Verso Corporation’s Escanaba plant. The local stood in solidarity with the nursing home workers throughout their campaign, leading community events and bringing attention to the fight that began almost four years ago.

International Vice President Roxanne Brown discussed the union-wide “We Supply America” campaign around infrastructure and its importance to the paper sector.

And, the Boyd D. Young safety award was presented. Bret Sharp, president of Local 731, representing Pixelle Specialty Solutions’ Chillicothe, Ohio, mill (along with USW Local 988) is shown below accepting the award. In August 2020, the mill experienced a fatality when a railroad boxcar onsite crushed worker and USW member Ronald Skaggs. The locals worked with the company to make changes to prevent future incidents. Health, Safety and Environment lead for the paper sector Trish Creech is shown below presenting the award to Local 731 President Bret Sharp.

A big ‘thank-you’, again, to all workshop facilitators, panelists, video participants and Policy Committee members for making the conference a success! We look forward to seeing everyone in-person at the next one in two years!

“Everything But The Shade” – Paper Sector Episode of USW’s Solidarity Works Podcast

The USW’s monthly podcast, “Solidarity Works”, is here to have conversations and start conversations about the past, present and future of the labor movement, as well as talk about the work that the union is doing, with USW activists leading the way. The latest episode is all about the paper sector, highlighting the adaptivity of an industry that is no stranger to unique challenges.

International Vice President Leeann Foster is the featured guest on the episode and speaks to the safety and sustainability initiatives that have come to define the sector’s resiliency. As Vice President Foster says in the episode, “Papermaking takes three things: fiber, heat and water. The industry has developed green processes around all three of those essential components, and has created a market and environmental preference for [paper-based] products like corrugated containers over plastic because they can be recycled; paper bags over plastic…”  Past and present “go green” campaigns forced the industry to adapt, but it has also helped to create new jobs, like those in capturing thermal energy for powering mills.

Safety is another area in which the paper industry has adapted; companies used to focus on behavior-based approaches to safety and zero recordable incidents. Vice President Foster says in the episode, “Once we started tracking fatalities and life-altering injuries, we started to see we had more fatalities in our industry than anyone else in the union. 2014 & 2015 had a spate of fatalities, and we started looking into where they were happening and why. Now, we look at not lagging indicators, like recordables, but leading and we do that by bargaining items like safety committees and associated workshops to make them effective voices for workers.”

For more discussion on safety, sustainability and the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, listen to the full episode at the following link: Solidarity Works: Everything but the Shade (


Susan Harwood Training Grants Available through August 23

OSHA awards grants to nonprofit organizations on a competitive basis through its Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. Grants are awarded to provide training and education programs for employers and workers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces, and to inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers and employers. Click here for more information: Susan Harwood Training Grant Program | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (

The United Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization (the Tony Mazzocchi Center) has been awarded grant money through the Susan Harwood Grant Program for several years. The funds have allowed the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center to conduct the “Preventing Fatalities and Improving Safety and Health in the Paper Sector” class, under which many local unions receive valuable training.

Industry Update

Corrugated Box Demand Remained Strong in 2nd Quarter

Corrugated box shipments were up 8.2% in the 2nd quarter as compared to 2020, and up 6.0% for the first half of the year. In connection with these strong demand levels, many box makers reported 8- to -10 week order backlogs. Containerboard manufacturers announced price increases of $50 - $80 per ton, expected to take effect in August, on top of two prior price increases (November 2020, March 2021) totaling $110 per ton.

Boxboard pricing continues to move up.  RISI reported that prices on consumer packaging grades—solid bleached sulfate (SBS), coated unbleached kraft (CUK) and coated recycled board (CRB)—moved up between $30 and $50 per ton in July with an expected additional SBS increase in August.  Taking into account multiple increases since late 2020, prices have moved toward targeted $150 - $200 increases, reflecting a generally tight market.  

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