Monday Morning Minute: July 27, 2020

Union Work

Industrial Global Pulp and Paper Sector Meeting on COVID-19 — Impacts, Approaches, Responses

Over 80 pulp and paper sector union officials from 20 countries participated in a July 22 virtual meeting. Opening remarks from USW Vice President Leeann Foster, chair of the IndustriALL global pulp and paper sector, highlighted the challenges the industry is facing due to COVID-19, but also the opportunities created through responses to a crisis.

This is the time, she said, to get involved and engaged with safety and health issues happening in the workplace because of COVID-19. One of the ways to do this is through IndustriALL Pulp and Paper Sector’s “Right to Know, Right to Act, Right to Participate” global action.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan followed with remarks highlighting the impact COVID-19 continues to have on the global economy. Issues like government, business or household debt still greatly influence the global economy. Along with the COVID-19 crisis, other important worldwide issues, like gender and racial inequality, also demand attention, he said. Özkan said labor needs to embrace these concerns because they are union issues and need global recognition.

While the pandemic negatively impacts the pulp and paper industry, its effect on this sector is less compared to other industries. Tom Grinter, IndustriALL staffer for the global pulp and paper sector, detailed the impact of COVID-19 globally and within the pulp and paper sector. Participants discussed the “Right to Know, Right to Act, Right to Participate” global action through the sharing of various posters, stickers and flyers that were distributed globally and will be again in the future.

Union officials and affiliate leaders from countries such as Brazil, Australia, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom shared information on COVID-19’s impact, and their approaches and responses to the pandemic within their respective countries, workplaces and affiliate trade unions.

A Video from the Keep Me Posted Campaign: Where's my paper bill? A look at efforts to protect consumer choice and fair access to paper statements

Keep Me Posted is a campaign managed by a coalition of consumer groups that advocate for the use of paper for digital communications. Paper communications used for banking, for example, are not only more accessible for areas of the country that might not have reliable internet service, but they are also more secure at a time where privacy is a concern. Additionally, paper communications support paper sector jobs. Many USW-represented companies that produce uncoated free sheet paper— like International Paper, Domtar and PCA—produce the paper that is used in these statements.

Keep Me Posted released a video interview of how the community agricultural organization, The National Grange, and Keep Me Posted are working together to ensure that consumers can retain a choice on how they receive important information from service providers—on paper or digitally.  Keep Me Posted and its coalition of consumer groups are also demanding that paper statements be available to customers at no extra charge—unfortunately, many companies are now charging between $2 and $6.50 per paper statement, and in some cases up to $18.

To view the interview, click here:


Man Trapped in Wood Chips Trailer

USW Local 2-20 – Verso Corporation – Escanaba, Mich. – A man was discovered by workers at the Verso coated paper mill in Escanaba, Mich., after they heard yelling from a woodchip trailer. The driver of a truck hauling chips, preparing to dump more into the trailer, heard a male yelling from inside the fully-loaded chip trailer. The man was buried and could not get out on his own, so rescuers had to use tools to free him from the front end of the trailer. Police said that it is not known how the man got into the trailer, and did not say how long he had been in there. Had the driver not been alert and aware of his surroundings, the man who was trapped may have faced severe or fatal injuries.

USW Health, Safety and Environment staff are looking into the incident for more information in case there are takeaways that we can learn and communicate across the sector.

Did You Know?

Popular Brands are Experimenting and Offering New Paper and Packaging Products

Diageo, the company that owns the Johnny Walker brand, will be trialing environmentally-friendly packaging in 2021. The company will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for Unilever and PepsiCo. The bottles will be made by pressurizing pulp in molds, which will then be cured in microwave ovens.

Ziploc already makes paper bags for sandwiches, snacks, etc.; the non-wax formula makes the product recyclable. We found the product on Amazon and also local grocery stores.

Industry Update

Greif Fiber Drum Converting Facility to Close

USW Local 4-607 – Greif – Tonawanda, N.Y. – On July 20, Greif Inc, announced that it will be closing its fiber drum converting facility located in Tonawanda, N.Y. Layoffs are expected to begin in September, with the full shutdown of the facility to be concluded by the end of the year. Forty-four jobs will be eliminated, 36 of which are held by USW members. The company cited market conditions as the reason for the closure, which had been declining prior to the pandemic. Business is even slower now since the drums are primarily used to transport large industrial materials.

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