Monday Morning Minute: June 7, 2021

Union Work

2021 Virtual National Paper Bargaining Conference

Day 1 of the virtual conference continues with Health, Safety and Environment lead for the paper sector, Trish Creech, reviewing the current safety action plan as well as recommendations. The afternoon plenary session will begin at 3:30 p.m. eastern with another unique video segment featuring local leaders from across the sector discussing the pandemic’s impact to their sites. USW International President Tom Conway will talk about the state of the union, followed by messages from International allies and global union federations. Howard Bochner and Laura Donovan will then review the state of the industry, especially as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic, including containerboard, tissue, printing and writing grades, and consumer packaging.

Next week’s Monday Morning Minute will include an overview of the registration process as local leaders will begin to receive their call letters later this week….

“More than Paper” Film on Verso’s Luke, Md., Mill

A documentary film on the shuttered Verso mill in Luke, Md., debuted on May 27. The film, titled “More than Paper,” was produced by local students from Mountain Ridge High School, and covers the 131-year history of the mill, from its opening in 1888 to its closure in May 2019.

Continuing decline in demand for the grades of coated freesheet paper was cited as the reason for the mill’s closure. The site was one of the largest in the USW paper sector, with nearly 700 members.

According to a local news article from the Cumberland Times News, the film was a two-year-long effort, and the students collected video, drone footage and stock footage from before and after the mill closed. The students interviewed 13 different people for the project, including USW Local 676 President Greg Harvey.

Watch the trailer and purchase a streaming of the documentary at the following link: Watch Mountain Ridge HRM | Luke Paper Mill Online | Vimeo On Demand on Vimeo.

From Keep Me Posted North America Campaign – Ransomware Attacks Target Companies and Consumers Alike: Having Paper and Offline Backups Can Reduce Harms and Risks

Ransomware attacks, like the one carried out against WestRock, the Colonial Pipeline and other major companies earlier this year, are becoming more frequent. Missing from most reporting of the issue, however, are the facts that consumers are increasingly targeted as well – and simple steps like maintaining paper and offline backups of important records can greatly reduce the devastation.

The digital crime called ransomware involves a hostage taking and a demand for ransom. What is taken hostage can vary from personal files on an individual’s home computer to everything on a corporation’s or government’s entire network. The ransom demanded can vary from hundreds to tens of millions of dollars and more. Cybercriminals remotely lock their bounty with encryption, issue payment terms and give promises to unlock and return the digital information once the ransom is paid. To help protect themselves, consumers should take inventory and proactively preserve their digital keepsakes and important records.

Having a multi-tiered backup system in place provides the safety, security and option of not having to pay the ransom, and the peace of mind that important data will not be lost if any ransom is not ultimately honored. Paper records also offer an irrefutable way to resolve payment or other types of disputes with service providers whose records have been compromised.

Safety

Find and Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine Near You

If you need help finding a nearby location to obtain and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine, visit www.vaccines.gov for assistance. Additionally, the page details incentives that are available, such as free rides to-and-from vaccine appointments and childcare providers that are offering free care so parents and caregivers can get vaccinated and recuperate.

The site includes a map tool that lets you select which COVID-19 vaccine you want (Moderna [age 18+], Pfizer-BioNTech [age 12+], or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen [age 18+]) and generates a search radius around any zip code you type in. Remember, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and are free of charge to all people living in the United States.

New OSHA Heat Safety Poster Available

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a new poster on heat safety. The guidance emphasizes the importance of allowing workers to gradually build up a tolerance to higher temperatures and take breaks. Copy and paste the following link into your browser to view:  Prevent Heat Illness at Work (osha.gov).

Industry Update

Clearwater Paper to Close Away-from-Home Tissue Mill in Neenah, Wis.

USW Local 2-482 – Clearwater Paper – Neenah, Wis. – On June 1, Clearwater Paper announced the indefinite closure of its tissue mill in Neenah, Wis. The mill produces napkin and facial tissue in the retail, or away-from-home, market. The company will completely exit the away-from-home business – which consists of tissue products consumed outside of consumers’ homes - through this closure.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was not explicitly cited as the reason for Clearwater’s recent announcement, we know from industry reports that the away-from-home tissue market has been especially hit hard due to pandemic-related closures of schools, offices and other businesses where the product would be used.

The closure of Clearwater’s Neenah, Wis., mill will take place by the end of July 2021. The mill has three paper machines and 10 converting lines, and will remove 54,000 tons of paper from the market. Approximately 245 USW members will be impacted by the closure.

U.S. Paper and Paperboard Capacity Fell in 2020 and is Expected to Decline again in 2021

According to a recent report on capacity released from the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), paper and paperboard capacity dropped 1.6% in 2020 (from 2019) to 81.6 million tons. The AF&PA expects capacity to drop by 0.3% to about 81.38 million tons after this year. The declines are related to drops in production; levels have decreased in almost every year since the Great Recession in 2010.

In the last 10 years, production of printing and writing grades and newsprint is primarily responsible for the declining paper production figures. These grades are down due to shifts in demand toward online use. Last year, more than one million tons of uncoated freesheet and a million tons of coated printing and writing paper capacity was shut in 2020, primarily due to COVID-19 pandemic-related drops in demand. Some of this capacity shifted to producing containerboard and kraft paper.

Containerboard production is up by 12% and tissue is up 9.6%. Capacity is expected to increase by 1.67 million tons between 2021 & 2022. We’ve previously reported about large projects, like the one at Domtar in Kingsport, Tenn., and Green Bay Packaging in Green Bay, Wis. Industry analysts do not expect the new capacity in containerboard to offset the decline anticipated for print paper.

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