Monday Morning Minute: March 30, 2020

Union Work

USW Local 9-425 –WestRock –Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

USW Paperworkers Stepping Up to Help Healthcare Workers in Need –United Steelworkers Local 9-425 members and North Carolina AFL-CIO Eastern Piedmont Central Labor Council members are donating boxes of gloves to Vidant North Hospital Roanoke Rapids, NC. It is one way they found to help their local community during this coronavirus pandemic.

Pictured below are Janice M. Barnes, USW 9-425 President & NC AFL-CIO Executive Board member, and Kuyzendra A. Cobb, Eastern Piedmont CLC President & USW 9-425 Trustee.

State Governors Deem Paper Sector is an Essential, Life-Sustaining Business; Need to Include Forestry

Across the country, governors are rightfully classifying paper sector industry jobs as essential. In most cases, our members are continuing to work under those designations making products like tissue and toilet paper, corrugated boxes, sanitary and incontinence products, and medical supplies, which are always vital to the daily lives of consumers, and are especially important now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some cases, however, logging and forestry industry jobs have not been included as essential, and this is problematic. Also of concern is the lack of recycled fiber due to less schools and offices being open during this time. The paper sector’s supply chain begins with access to fiber, which turns into the pulp used to become our indispensable products.  

The USW paper sector and legislative office in Washington, DC has been working to characterize these paper sectors as essential industries, and district leaders are also reaching out directly to governors’ offices to inform them of the importance of our industries and to appeal decisions that have already been made. 

Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf initially released an exhaustive list of essential industries, and later modified it after the USW reached out to his office. Others have more flexible mandates, or nothing at all in place. We continue to monitor these state-specific mandates to ensure the best possible outcome for our members.

AFL-CIO COVID-19 State Resource List

The AFL-CIO has compiled a list of state resources and benefits available to workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The list will be updated and includes materials for workers in all 50 states, Washington, DC, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Included is information on states’ unemployment insurance programs and healthcare exchanges, as well as federal government resources.

Click here to view the guide: https://aflcio.org/covid-19/state-resources

Safety Center for Disease Control (CDC) Updated Guidance for Non-Healthcare Businesses and Employers for Responding to COVID-19

The CDC updated its guidance for cleaning and disinfection, best practices for conducting social distancing, and strategies and recommendations that can be implemented now to respond to the virus.

These changes update earlier issued guidance. It should be noted that the operating status of businesses is being determined by state and local public authorities. The CDC guidelines do not replace the directives from state and local authorities but may be helpful for business/workers that continue to operate/work during the outbreak.

Click the link for more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html?deliveryName=USCDC_2067-DM23558

Industry Update

International Paper Rome Mill Fire

USW Local 804 –International Paper –Rome, Ga - On the night of Saturday, March 14, International Paper experienced a fire at its linerboard mill in Rome, Ga. The fire broke in the building that houses two paper machines. The company announced that no structural damage occurred on either of the kraft linerboard machines.

This incident, along with the recent boiler explosion at International Paper’s Bogalusa mill, which resulted in the shut of another machine, have brought down a combined 3 percent of US containerboard capacity, according to industry analysts.

The USW represents nearly 300 members at the Rome mill, and no one was seriously injured. The company plans to provide an update in late April of Rome’s status.

Sun Paper Cancels Pulp and Board Mill Project in Arkansas

Chinese paper company, Sun Paper, officially called off plans to build a new pulp and board mill in Arkansas. The project had experienced several delays since it was first announced in 2016. Company officials cited new economic uncertainties due to the coronavirus and ongoing trade disputes as the reasoning for canceling the $1.8 billion project, which received $12.5 million of community-based grant funding. The new mill would have had two kraftliner machines and one softwood kraft pulp line with a combined capacity of 4,400 tons per day.

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