Monday Morning Minute: July 29, 2019

Union Work

International Paper Renewal Bargaining Summit

USW Locals 462, 675, 1458, 1531, 1978, 13-1, 13-162, 2-345 & 9-429 – International Paper – Prattville, Ala.; Santa Fe Springs, Calif.; Hazelton, Pa.; San Antonio, Texas; Valliant, Okla.; Manitowoc, Wis.; & Statesville, N.C. – On July 23, staff and local leaders from the International Paper locations with local collective bargaining agreements expiring between late August and November 2019 met in Atlanta with the USW paper sector leadership, general managers, senior labor relations and local human resources leadership. These sessions are held a few times per year for the company and the union to facilitate the local and master bargaining process.

A union-only session was held after the start of the renewal bargaining session with the company to review new materials for new hire orientations and internal organizing initiatives. A photo of one of the locations engaging in a breakout on renewal bargaining is below.

WestRock Solidarity Tour

USW Local 264 – WestRock – Minneapolis, Minn. – Tours of the WestRock facilities with local agreements expiring in 2020 continued last week with the USW paper sector and District 11 leaderships’ visit to the St. Paul, Minn., mill.

They toured the facility on Wednesday, July 24 and met with local leaders to familiarize them with the master process, hear their issues and build solidarity among WestRock locals. Local 264 is an amalgamated local and Local Union President John O’Neil, who used to work in the facility, arranged the tour with District 11 Staff Representative Brian Ecker. John is pictured below on the right on the tour with a Local 264 member. Many thanks to District 11 and John for making the tour happen!


U.S. Dept. of Labor cites Graphic Packaging for Safety Violations at Non-Union Location

U.S. OSHA cited Graphic Packaging for exposing employees to hot steam and for failing to ensure the use of proper hazardous energy control methods after an employee at the Queen City, Texas, facility suffered hot steam burns. The Queen City, Texas, facility is not represented by the USW; however, seven mills and six converters are USW–represented facilities and similar hazards could exist at these plants. OSHA launched an investigation after hot steam burned an employee trying to repair a lead on a steam-line header. OSHA determined that the header had been leaking for several months and found the company violated federal safety standards for personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout and process safety management.

Graphic Packaging faces $211,400 in proposed fines. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Industry Update

Graphic Packaging to Acquire White Pigeon Paper Coated Recycled Board Mill

USW Local 1034 – White Pigeon Paper – White Pigeon, Mich. – On July 23, Graphic Packaging announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire all of the assets of Artistic Carton Company, which includes a USW-represented, coated recycled paperboard mill under the name, White Pigeon Paper. White Pigeon Paper is owned by Artistic Carton Company – a custom folding carton company headquartered in Elgin, Ill.

Also included in the sale are two converting facilities, which are not represented by the USW, located in Auburn, Ind., and Elgin, Ill. The sale is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019 for an amount that is undisclosed at this time.  USW paper sector leadership and District 2 staff will monitor the sale to ensure Graphic Packaging’s assumption of the collective bargaining agreement and all of its obligations.

Printing/Writing Paper Shipments Down 13.7% in First Half of this Year

According to the Pulp and Paper Products Council, North American shipments of printing and writing papers fell 13.7% in the first half of this year. Demand is also down in the first half of 2019, falling by 9.3%. Despite the capacity reduction in the market earlier this year brought on by the shut of Georgia-Pacific’s Port Hudson mill, operating rates in the industry declined from 96% to 88% as companies adjust for higher inventories. At the same time, imports grew significantly by 20.1% as they are priced lower than domestic products. The USW paper sector is evaluating a circumvention case to reinforce orders on our originally successful uncoated free sheet trade case and confront these additional imports.

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