Monday Morning Minute: March 28, 2022


USW Local 13-735 – Evergreen Packaging – Pine Bluff, Ark.

On March 18, a USW member was fatally injured at Evergreen Packaging’s coated linerboard/liquid packaging mill in Pine Bluff, Ark. The initial information is that the member was crushed between a paper roll and a kick bar.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives have been onsite, and USW Health, Safety and Environment staff Trish Creech is assisting the local.

Union Work

USW Members at Sappi’s Skowhegan Mill Ratify New Agreement

USW Local 4-9 – Sappi – Somerset, Maine (Skowhegan Mill) – The membership of USW Local 4-9, representing Sappi’s Somerset mill located in Skowhegan, Maine, ratified a new local agreement. After seven contentious months of bargaining and the potential for a strike, the local achieved the most lucrative package since Sappi purchased the site due to the membership’s unwavering solidarity throughout the entire process and a pandemic in the background.

Both sides finally reached a tentative agreement on March 18. Ultimately, the company decided to invest not only in its paper machines, but also its employees by maintaining current healthcare, continuing pension improvements, and offering one of the best wage proposals seen in the paper industry.

President of the Local Patrick Carleton said: “For many months, the company questioned our solidarity. The members spoke loud and clear. After working in the plant through the pandemic, this contract offer represents the dedication and commitment to keep our company profitable in our markets. It was long overdue.”

According to Pulp Mill Vice President Dakota Hatch: “This contract should put our mill in a position that is not only good for the company, but good for the members. The negotiating committee listened to our membership, and that led us to a contract we could be proud of. I would like to thank everyone for the solidarity that was shown. Our future is bright.”

New Local Agreement Ratified at Kimberly Clark’s Chester, Pa., Mill

USW Local 10-448 – Kimberly-Clark – Chester, Pa. – The USW membership at Kimberly-Clark’s Chester, Pa., mill recently ratified a new local agreement covering over 450 members. One highlight from the contract includes the shift from a flat-dollar weekly benefit amount to 60 percent of base wages for short- and long-term disability benefit payments. The shift in payment-type will end up generating a substantial increase based on the average wage rate for the plant. The contract also makes improvements to funeral leave. Overall, the local no took no concessions.


WestRock Human Organizational Performance Safety Meeting

The USW International and some union hourly safety leads were recently invited to Seattle, Wash., to participate in WestRock’s rollout of its Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) program. Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) is a science-based approach to looking at systems of safety so we can address them more effectively.  It builds an understanding of how humans perform and how we can build systems to fail safe.  This program moves away from the behavioral-based approach that focuses on the behavior of the worker.

Some of you may remember Todd Conklin from the USW HSE conference. Conklin describes HOP, in part as: “Blame is common, because it is easier to blame than improve…We want to design defenses that let us fail safely…learn from and develop defenses with both those that do the work and those that designed the process TOGETHER.”

For more information on Todd Conklin’s work around HOP, please see the following link to his podcast: He also has published a book by the same name.

Todd Conklin spoke at the USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference in 2018, and provided an overview of the “New View of Safety” to the 1,600 conference participants. The “New View of Safety” provides a fresh look at unsafe workplace conditions and resulting injuries to workers. To watch Conklin’s presentation at the conference, see the following link: 2018 USW HSE Conference: The New View of Safety with Todd Conklin - YouTube.

Industry Update

ND Paper to Convert its Coated Mechanical Paper Machine to Recycled Linerboard

USW Local 2-94 – ND Paper – Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (Biron Mill) – ND Paper announced that it will be converting its B26 coated mechanical paper machine in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., to lightweight recycled packaging at the end of 2022. Also included in the conversion is a new pulping facility that will process Old Corrugated Containers (OCC) – a sustainable source of wood pulp fiber that comes from recycled corrugated cardboard.

ND Paper is the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese company, Nine Dragons Paper. In 2018, the company purchased the USW-represented Biron and Rumford mills from Catalyst Paper. The mills initially continued to run their original produce bases of coated specialty printing and writing papers, but ND Paper made it clear early on after the acquisition that it would explore moving to other grades to preserve the viability of the mills.

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