Monday Morning Minute: June 13, 2022

Union Work

Sick Leave Arbitration Award Win

USW Locals 237 & 12-586 – WestRock – Tacoma, Wash. – The arbitration dealt with statutorily-required sick leave as it relates to collectively bargained, contractual time off. When the City of Tacoma and then the State of Washington required employers to provide paid sick leave, WestRock used floating holiday days and/or vacation time to cover absences of an employee at its Tacoma mill who had taken time off to care for a family member. The USW grieved this usage as the collective bargaining agreement does not include a sick leave provision and the employee had been charged vacation leave. Neither side could agree whether the grievance was limited to the employee’s individual experience or would be precedent-setting.

On January 1, 2018, Washington state created a sick leave ordinance and the City of Tacoma followed the state statute. Shortly after, the company announced a new sick leave policy and said it would front-load hours into a “Washington State Paid Sick Leave-Tacoma Paid Leave” bank for each employee: First, within the vacation pay granted by the contract and then, within floating holiday hours and paid leave according to law. Around the same time, the company also announced substantial revisions to its no-fault attendance policy.

Because the contract for the Tacoma mill requires vacation leave to be taken in full week increments, the changes to the attendance policy resulted in the grievant’s net vacation time being reduced from four weeks to three, with the unused hours in the fourth week automatically paid out in cash at the end of the vacation year.

The arbitrator determined that WestRock did not create a universal leave provision or a paid-time-off (PTO) system to satisfy the Tacoma ordinance and state statute, and the contract did not allow the company to change the use of vacation time and floating holiday time to sick leave in order to satisfy those legislative acts.

About the win, Local Union President James Dubois said:  “I spent quite some time in 2018 and 2019 investigating and researching other arbitrations regarding state sick leave laws when there is a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place. To put this in perspective, when we filed our grievance, my vice president and I asked our local human resources to settle our grievance simply by separating our sick leave hours from our floating holidays / vacation time and allow us to accrue one hour for every 40 hours worked. All we wanted was for the company to follow the law. We had six witnesses for the union: Each one was equal on their own and helped us reach our common goal. Everyone did great.”

If you are interested in viewing a copy of the award, contact Laura Donovan:; 412-736-7702. 

Paper Sector Local Leaders Still Needed for Organizing Projects

Earlier this year, we put out a call for members who are interested in becoming member-organizers for the USW. A number of local leaders from the paper sector have already been identified; however, we need as many passionate volunteers as possible who are inclined to be messengers for the benefits and protections a union can offer.

Organizing the unorganized gives our entire sector leverage to bargain better agreements as we cease to compete with low wage, non-union facilities. Efforts to organize more box shops and facilities in other sectors across the U.S. are ramping up, and priority targets are being identified in each district.

If you’re interested in joining this effort, please fill out the organizer application contained at the following link: Apply to be a USW Member Organizer | United Steelworkers.

We are looking for serious, dedicated activists, and intensive training and travel will be required. If you have questions, please call 877-511-8792.


Gravitec Stop Use/Recall – Select 3M DBI-SALA ShockWave2 Arc Flash Shock Absorbing Lanyards

During an internal review, 3M Fall Protection has identified a potential manufacturing issue with a limited number of 3M DBI-SALA ShockWave2 Arc Flash Shock Absorbing Lanyards. The manufacturing issue could result in the lanyard not performing properly in the event of a fall, which could result in severe injury or death. There have been no reports of injuries, accidents or complaints associated with this issue, but many fall arrest systems are used across the paper sector and it is critical that they are working properly.

End users should locate the label on the device to determine the model number. If the device is an impacted model (found at the following link: Shockwave-Lanyard-Recall-Notice-060622-FINAL-English.pdf (, remove the product from service. Then, once the part number had been confirmed, go to and follow the instructions to return the device. As soon as a replacement product solution is available, 3M will replace the device, as per its standard warranty.

Industry Update

New Video Highlights Paper Recycling Process

Every day at paper mills across the country, recycled paper is used to make the essential products people rely on. Recycling is a sophisticated process as items that come in on a conveyor belt are then sorted by different machinery. Corrugated and other paper-based materials are separated first and then are baled in preparation for sale and hauling to a paper mill, which will re-pulp the bales of paper and turn them into new paper products.

Watch the process at the following link: 

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