Monday Morning Minute: June 29, 2020

Union Work 

USW Local 9546 – St. Croix Tissue – Baileyville, Maine – Local Agreement Ratified

On Friday, June 19, USW Local Union 9542 representing the St. Croix tissue mill in Baileyville, Maine, ratified a new agreement covering approximately 80 members. Industry-standard, but industry-leading wage increases were gained, along with incentive pay for folks working an extra shift while on a 36-hour week. In addition, 401k and healthcare provisions were also maintained and secured for the life of the new agreement.

According to Staff Representative Mike Higgins: “There were several language issues, but none of them concessional for us. The biggest was a flip in the DuPont 12-hour schedule. The current schedule is a reverse DuPont schedule, which leaves the short turnaround almost unbearable and is called “hell week.” The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) returns our members to the traditional DuPont schedule.”

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed bargaining down by two months as both parties agreed that they’d rather wait and meet in-person, but getting a deal done to ensure long-term stability on both sides was imperative. Congratulations to the local, district and everyone involved!

USW Membership and Education Department Online Trainings Available

The current global pandemic has inspired everyone to be a little more creative in the ways that we communicate. The paper sector is typically very active in planning annual in-person meetings for our larger councils and trainings around safety and other topics – all of which we are unable to schedule at this time. However, our USW headquarters staff is working at not only thinking about ways to replace these in-person meetings, but also how to exploit the moment and extend more offerings to our membership who might typically be precluded from travel due to expenses or other reasons.

The USW Membership and Education Department is creating free, electronic resources for local leaders, members and staff at https://education.usw.org/. You will be prompted to create an account before accessing the available materials. As of now, there is one course available to enroll in regarding the fundamentals of being a union steward; however, many more resources on arbitrations, grievances, etc. are on the way.

Additionally, USW paper sector leadership is engaging our membership with new tools across the sector. If there is a subject that you feel would be beneficial to address in a free, widely-accessible platform, please contact Laura Donovan (ldonovan@usw.org).

Safety

Chemical Safety Board Released New Safety Video Message and Safety Alert Focused on Extreme Weather Events

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued last week a video safety message and a safety alert entitled “2020 Hurricane Season: Guidance for Chemical Plants During Extreme Weather Event.” The video and safety alert highlight recent actions by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) to produce industry guidance meant to help hazardous chemical facilities better prepare for extreme weather events.

Fires can erupt as a result of heavy rain: As plant equipment floods and fails, this causes chemicals stored at the facility to decompose and burn, releasing fumes and smoke into the air.

Paper mills house many volatile chemicals, and many of our mills and converting plants have experienced flooding issues in the past. The 2017 hurricane season was especially bad/dangerous as Irma and Harvey caused significant flooding and impacted nine of the largest paper mills we represent in Georgia, Florida and Texas.

CCPS’s document includes the following guidance:

CCPS states that once hazards are identified, the next step is to gather data on the natural hazards. Data sources include Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, United States Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center, etc. Data may be used in evaluating facility design in relation to natural hazards, assessing risks and emergency planning. This includes the probability of occurrence and the severity level.

To View the video, click here: https://www.csb.gov/videos/; for the safety alert, click here: https://www.csb.gov/assets/1/6/extreme_weather_-_final_w_links.pdf.

Industry Update

Domtar Kingsport and Ashdown Mills Extending Market-Related Downtime until August

USW Locals 12943, 1329 & 13-1327 – Domtar – Kingsport, Tenn. & Ashdown, Ark. – Domtar will be extending the downtime that was implemented in April until August. Initially, the market-related downtime was expected to last for three months, but the uncoated free sheet market that Kingsport participates in and the Ashdown paper machine produces have both been doing poorly through the pandemic due to lack of demand from offices and schools.

The Kingsport downtime has been and will continue to affect the entire mill, consisting of about 240 members, while about 111 members will be affected at Ashdown.

Washington State University Researchers Develop a Paper-Based Test for Early Cancer Screening that is 30 Times more Sensitive than Current Lab-Based Tests

The paper-based test uses an electric field to concentrate and separate cancer biomarkers onto a paper strip. It could someday become a kind of liquid biopsy and could lead to earlier detection of and faster treatments for cancer.

The WSU team for the first time applied a technology that uses an electric field to rapidly isolate, enrich and detect the exosomes taken from a prostate cancer cell line.

The technology was able to concentrate and then separate the cancer-cell exosomes from those in normal cells by way of immune-binding. That is, the researchers captured the target exosomes by using an antibody that is specific to a protein marker on the exosome surface. The researchers were also able to separate out and analyze cancer protein markers within the exosomes.

The technology was 33 times more sensitive than conventional methods that are used in research labs.

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