Monday Morning Minute: June 22, 2020

Union Work

New National Labor Relations Board Decision Overturns Settled Law and Says that Employees Can be Disciplined for Union Talk on the Clock

In a stunning decision rolling back years of precedent, a new ruling by the Trump Administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says that companies can generally prohibit employees from talking to coworkers about supporting unionization during working time. The May 29 decision was based on a case brought forward regarding whether an employee’s act of encouraging a coworker to vote for union representation in an upcoming election on company time, constituted prohibited union solicitation.

While union solicitation has generally been intended to mean asking employees on the job to sign a union authorization card or distributing union-related materials, the NLRB took it a step further and clarified that solicitation also includes the act of encouraging employees to vote for or against union representation. This ruling creates a new precedent that allows employers to discipline employees for talking about union-related activities, even if it does not interrupt work. In the case at hand, the employee spent approximately three minutes speaking to a coworker about becoming union.

The current NLRB—the organization that enforces the NLRA law giving workers the right to collectively bargain—has no one on it who has experience representing workers or unions. At a time when workers need more protections and not less, this is an example of the Board ruling in favor of employers.

Two Sides’ Anti-Greenwash Campaign

The potential consequences of misleading marketing claims – from negative public relations and customer dissatisfaction to legal action and financial penalties – make rigorous factual and legal scrutiny of product and service claims a fundamental step in today’s corporate marketing process. The Two Sides anti-greenwash campaign was launched in 2012 to engage and encourage major North American corporations to adopt best practices for environmental marketing established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Competition Bureau of Canada (CBC), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021:2016).

These standards are quite detailed, but in a nutshell, they say that environmental marketing claims should be accurate, substantiated by competent and reliable evidence, and should not suggest environmental benefits by using broad, vague terms like “green” and “environmentally friendly.” Citing facts from well-known, credible sources, Two Sides continues to make the case that paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable and recyclable and that these features, combined with the North America paper industry’s advocacy of responsible forestry practices and certification, use of renewable, carbon-neutral biofuels and advances in efficient papermaking technology, make paper one of the most sustainable products on earth.

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U.S. Department of Labor Updates National Emphasis Program on Amputations in Manufacturing Industries

OSHA recently issued an updated National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus agency inspections on amputation hazards in manufacturing industries. This directive updates the 2015 NEP amputations. The NEP targets industrial and manufacturing workplaces where employees are injured by unguarded or improperly guarded machinery and equipment. NEPs focus on agency enforcement activity and do not create any new obligation to employers.

The USW experienced 80 amputation incidents across all represented sectors between January 2015 and December 2019. Of those incidents, 21 took place within the paper sector, making it the sector with the highest percentage of amputations. For reference, the next highest sector, basic steel, had 10.

We have known that the paper sector is dangerous, especially in the area of amputations, which is why we have worked with the USW Health, Safety and Environment Department on initiatives like the Making and Converting Paper Safely Plan and implementing Right-to-Act procedures with various employers.

Industry Update

May Containerboard Figures

Average weekly box shipments declined 0.2 percent year-over-year, which is not as low as expected. Operating rates fell below 90.3 percent, which is nearly 5 percent lower than April and might be of concern.

We continue to monitor all of the markets we have representation in.

McDonalds New Sustainable Packaging Initiatives Include Paper Products

McDonalds has committed to use its global scale to help accelerate a circular economy. As part of that goal, the company has made two commitments: to source 100 percent of packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025 and to recycle packaging in 100 percent of its restaurants by 2025. The goal to source 100 percent of primary fiber-based packaging from recycled or certified sources where no deforestation occurs is set for 2020.

As part of its sustainable packaging initiatives, McDonalds has introduced a new fiber lid for cold fountain drinks, removing the plastic lid and need for a plastic straw. USW-represented paper companies like Twin Rivers Paper and Huhtamaki produce food-grade fiber for products like trays, cups, egg cartons and straws, and a large corporate initiative towards sustainability could help set the pace for others.

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