Monday Morning Minute: July 6, 2020

Union Work

The USW recently teamed up with the American Forestry and Paper Association (AF&PA) on an op-ed regarding the importance of including forest-based biomass in carbon neutrality legislation being advanced by the EPA in the near future. Repeated studies, agencies, institutions, legislation and rules around the world—in addition to 100 forestry scientists—recognize the carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably-managed forests. Yet, the lack of clear designation domestically puts American industry at a disadvantage

Keith Frazier remembers what it was like at Domtar’s Ashdown, Ark., plant when the facility operated at fully capacity. About 850 workers represented by the USW made good, family-sustaining wages while the company churned out uncoated free sheet used to make copy paper and other products. But over the past nine years, said Frazier, president of USW Local 1329, Domtar has had to gradually scale back operations. It eliminated three production lines, idled a fourth and cut hundreds of jobs as it attempted to remain competitive.  Fortunately, the company has been able to convert some of the production lines to pulp from uncoated free sheet.

While there are a number of forces at work, including recently the novel coronavirus, the United States’ widely debated energy policy has made it difficult for all U.S. paper producers to plan for the future and retain a competitive edge. The first step towards protecting these domestic jobs is definitively designating wood biomass energy as carbon neutral, as it has been elsewhere around the world.

American production of paper food containers, toilet tissue, copy paper, shipping boxes and more, sets the standard for clean manufacturing. On average, about two-thirds of the energy used to make paper comes from biomass rather than fossil fuels. Yet, the lack of carbon neutral designation currently subjects biomass energy to cumbersome regulations and permit processes under the Clean Air Act, putting the domestic industry at a disadvantage.

To read the full op-ed, click here: https://www.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2020/for-good-jobs-and-a-clean-environment-look-to-paper-and-packaging

Two Sides North America Launches “Love Paper” Campaign

Two Sides North America announced the launch of a new campaign called “Love Paper.” The campaign is designed to raise consumer awareness of the unique and inherently sustainable characteristics of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Included in the campaign is a series of prints ads that promote the sustainability of print and paper. The ads, which focus on the sustainable forestry, recycling and renewable energy advantages of paper are available to newspaper and magazine publishers free of charge. The centerpiece of the campaign is a consumer-friendly website that reveals surprising facts about how print and paper products contribute to a sustainable future for us all. Check out the website, which includes more information on the campaign as well as additional resources, at the following link: www.lovepaperna.org.

Safety

A Critique of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Guidelines and Tips for Health and Safety at the Workplace

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new set of COVID-19 workplace guidelines and Q&As; but the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) commented that these guidelines are considered flawed and contain gaps in managing health and safety issues. Omissions include no mention of the essential role of unions’ inspection and enforcement activities, a lack of recognition of potential interactions with other workplace hazards, and the necessity for wider employment protections to make safety and safe behavior a realistic prospect. Potential risks in outdoor work and the need to address the impact of job segregation related to inequalities in health outcomes are also absent.

According to the WHO, managers with the support of an occupational health and safety advisor should carry out rapid risk assessments to determine the possibility of exposure risk in order to put in place preventive measures. This should be done for each specific work setting and each job. However, the WHO leaves out the role that unions play in representing and advocating for the health and safety of their members.

The WHO guidelines also say that employers and managers, in consultation with workers, should carry out and regularly update the risk assessment for work-related exposure to Covid-19, preferably with the support of occupational health services. But, the ITUC says that consultation with workers alone is not good enough and dialogue with workers’ organizations and workplace occupational safety and health committees is also needed.

Industry Update

PCA Will Continue to Idle Large Mill in Jackson, Ala. Due to Market Conditions

USW Locals 1083 & 361 – Packaging Corporation of America – Jackson, Ala. – The PCA mill in Jackson, Ala., was the first announced USW-represented shutdown back in April as the negative effect on demand due to COVID-19-related closures of offices and schools was imminent. Initially, the mill was expected to be down for about two months, beginning May 1 and ending in early July; however, the shutdown is now being extended until the end of August/early September due to continued lower demand for cut size uncoated free sheet paper products.

Most bargaining unit members continued working, doing maintenance, painting and cleaning since May. With the newest announcement, 440 members will be laid off, and 35 will remain as a skeleton crew. The USW is working to ensure our members continue to be covered by certain benefits.

While some areas of the country have reopened, the coated and uncoated printing paper markets remain very weak in North America due to the COVID-19 impact on consumption, since many offices remain closed. Paper producers continue to curtail production in an attempt to try to balance supply and demand.

Georgia-Pacific to Idle Two Specialty Cellulose Lines at Foley Mill

USW Local 1192 – Georgia-Pacific – Foley, Fla. – The Georgia-Pacific cellulose mill in Foley, Fla., scaled back production beginning July 2 by idling two out of three production lines. Georgia-Pacific hopes to return the mill back to full production in the early fall and convert one machine to a different product during the idle.

The Foley mill is the fourth largest specialty mill in the world, manufacturing cellulose that turns into products including fluff pulp, textiles, industrial fibers, etc. According to analysts, the Foley mill represents about 10-15 percent of global capacity. During the curtailment,150 workers will be laid off.  

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