Monday Morning Minute: June 16, 2020

INCIDENT ALERTS

USW Local 1303 – Pixelle Specialty Solutions – Spring Grove, Pa.

On Monday, June 1, a contractor at Pixelle Specialty Solutions in Spring Grove, Pa., was seriously injured when he was assisting with the cutting of an expansion joint on a cage mill chute. A pipe dropped from above and injured his right arm. The complete details are unknown at this time and we will follow up with more information as it becomes available.

USW Local 10-422 – Appvion – Roaring Spring, Pa.

On Monday, June 8, a member of Local 10-422 at Appvion’s Roaring Spring mill was part of a process of removing weights from a jib crane and was putting them back on. The weight fell and crushed his left hand, amputating his pinky finger and crushing his ring and middle finger. The pinky was able to be reattached and it is believed it will be saved. Union safety advocates on site were involved in the investigation. The corrective action is to purchase a forklift with enough lifting capacity, thus eliminating the need for the weights, and eliminating the hazard.

USW Local 597 – Green Bay Packaging – Green Bay, Wis.

On June 12, a contractor working at the Green Bay Packaging mill located in Green Bay, Wis., was fatally injured when he was struck by a forklift. The complete details are unknown at this time and we will follow up in the near future with more details when they become available.

Union Work

AFL-CIO Lawsuit over Lack of COVID-19 Labor Protections

On Thursday, June 11, a federal appeals court rejected the AFL-CIO’s emergency lawsuit against the Trump administration for failing to enact stronger labor protections amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The labor group filed an emergency petition with the D.C. circuit less than a month ago, accusing OSHA of ignoring calls for urgently needed labor rules to protect workers vulnerable to the coronavirus. Lawyers for the AFL-CIO included in their petition that the virus’ toll in mortality and morbidity among workers and the general public has exceeded the expectations of many prognosticators.

The AFL-CIO and a coalition of labor unions urged Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in March to enact stronger rules for protecting workers and to require employers to report to the agency when their workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Scalia responded in a letter saying that his agency had issued strong guidelines to protect workers and that the labor groups' proposal would unnecessarily "burden employers and overwhelm OSHA with information."

For more information, click here.

Safety

COVID-19 and Paper Product Safety – New Fact Sheet Released by Keep Me Posted North America

Keep Me Posted North America, a key campaign by Two Sides, has compiled the latest available science and guidance related to COVID-19 and the safe use of paper products. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about the lifespan of the virus on a variety of surfaces, including paper and paper-based products. Some service providers are capitalizing on consumer uncertainty by suggesting or requiring that their customers go paperless for safety reasons. This is not only detrimental to our industry, but also to consumers who may need paper communications, including older adults, people with disabilities, low-income earners, and those with no home internet or computers.

The new fact sheet details the scientific research around surface stability of a closely-related virus compared to various mediums. On cardboard, no viable virus was measured after 24-hours, while on other surfaces like copper, it could stay active for up to two or three days.In different environmental conditions, no infectious virus could be recovered from printing and tissue papers after a 3-hour incubation, whereas no infectious virus could be detected from treated wood and cloth on day 2.

To read more and download the fact sheet, click here.

Industry Update

USW Locals 2-94 & 2-187 – Verso Corporation – Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Verso Permanently Idling Wisconsin Rapids Mill

Verso announced last week that the company will permanently idle two mills – a non-union mill located in Duluth, Minn., and the USW-represented mill in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. The company is calling the shuts “necessary actions to offset unprecedented market decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” According to industry analysts, printing and writing paper demand has fallen by 38 percent year-over-year in April, and operating rates are below 70 percent.

The Wisconsin Rapids mill produces coated graphic and specialty papers. Due to COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders, the use of print advertisements in various industries has been drastically reduced. The mill in Wisconsin Rapids is one of the largest in the USW paper sector, employing nearly 600 USW members. The USW will begin effects bargaining soon, and the mill is anticipated to permanently idle by the end of July; however, Verso has left the door open for a restart if conditions improve or it markets the mills for sale.

Corrugated Industry Update

While corrugated box shipments this March were 6.5 percent higher than they were in March 2019, industry activity started to slow in April as consumer pantry-stocking decreased. Box shipments were down 2.1 percent in April year-over-year, and while May figures have not yet been released, industry analysts are expecting to see a 2-4 percent drop in last month’s activity. We have seen this in the USW-represented paper sector with mills taking downtime as a result of maintenance outages, which normally would have taken place in the spring as COVID-related demand increased, or for economic reasons to mitigate higher inventories and lower demand.

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