Monday Morning Minute: May 10, 2021

Union Work

Packaging Corporation of America COVID-19 Vaccine Shipping Box Will be on Display as Part of the Smithsonian’s Exhibit on the Pandemic

Packaging Corporation of America designed a corrugated box for shipping COVID-19 vaccines that keeps the vials safe and at the requisite extremely low temperature of negative 70 to negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Several different pieces of corrugated medium are needed to keep the vials suspended and to prevent them from touching the dry ice that is included in the shipping box.

Production of the vaccine boxes began in August 2020. Because of its importance in history, the first shipment — including PCA’s box and all of its interior packaging — recently became part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s exhibit on the global pandemic. In addition to the special shipping equipment, the exhibit will include other materials related to the first vaccine dose given, among them the medical scrubs and ID badge of the New York City nurse who was America’s first coronavirus vaccine recipient.

While the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and created was certainly an enormous undertaking, the additional complexity of safely transporting them makes the task all the more impressive. The Smithsonian exhibit now solidifies the paper industry’s role in helping to save lives and ending the pandemic. A photo diagram of the box components is included.

What Consumers Don’t Know About the Sustainability of Paper Products

A new survey from Two Sides North America shows that U.S. consumers underestimate print and paper products’ unique contributions to a circular economy. A new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America titled, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” sought to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products. As attention turns to developing a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: Paper is one the few products that can already claim to have a truly circular life cycle.

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands-down environmental success story. But according to the survey, only 11% of consumers believe the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60% and nearly a quarter believe it’s less than 20%.  The fact: More than two-thirds of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 90% of corrugated cardboard boxes is recycled, according to the American Forest and Paper Association. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 8.4%, glass at 26.6% and metals at 33.3%.

As the pandemic forced meetings, events and day-to-day business to online communication and consumers increasingly relied on the internet for news and information, 67% of those surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication. The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 1.2% of U.S. industrial greenhouse gas emissions and only 0.5% of total U.S. GHG emissions – which shouldn’t be surprising since two-thirds of the energy used to power U.S. paper industry operations is generated using renewable, carbon neutral biomass. In contrast, the energy consumption required for digital technologies is increasing 9% each year, and the share of digital technology in global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to 8% by 2025.

To read more consumer misconceptions and the facts that disprove them, click here:


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Hierarchy of Controls – A Refresher

Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective control solutions. The idea behind this hierarchy is that the control methods at the top of the graphic are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Following this hierarchy normally leads to the implementation of inherently safer systems, where the risk of illness or injury has been substantially reduced. A visual representation of the Hierarchy of Controls is included for your reference.

The control methods include: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE). Elimination and substitution, while most effective at reducing hazards, also tend to be the most difficult to implement in an existing process. If the process is still at the design or development stage, elimination and substitution of hazards may be inexpensive and simple to implement.

Engineering controls are favored over administrative and PPE for controlling existing worker exposures in the workplace because they are designed to remove the hazard at the source, before it comes in contact with the worker. Administrative controls and PPE programs may be relatively inexpensive to establish but, over the long term, can be very costly to sustain.

Industry Update

USW-Represented Companies are Releasing New Products

USW Locals 390, 832, 9-590, 3937 & 832 – Mohawk Fine Papers & Duro Hilex – Cohoes, N.Y. & Waterford, N.Y.; Florence/Covington, Ky.; Jackson, Tenn.; Tolleson, Ariz., and Walton, Ky. – USW-represented companies are continuously coming out with new, sustainable products. Fine paper and envelope producer, Mohawk Fine Papers, unveiled a portfolio of papers called “Mohawk Renewal,” made from rapidly renewable, sustainable fibers—namely hemp, straw and recycled cotton—in April of last year.

According to a press release, the entire range of Mohawk Renewal Hemp, Mohawk Renewal Straw and Mohawk Renewal Recycled Cotton papers have been reviewed and found to be in compliance with U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for use as an Indirect Food Additive (IFA). This is a designation for materials used in the handling, holding or packaging of food. The designation means that Renewal products are suitable for use in packaging and labeling applications that involve direct food contact. The designation creates new opportunities for product packaging designers to use Mohawk Renewal label and packaging papers – from CBD and cannabis products to any CPG brands looking to amplify their sustainability messaging.

Another USW-represented company, Novolex, which operates several brands, including Duro Hilex, is offering solutions to help restaurants with increased customer demand for takeout and curbside service with a variety of to-go containers. In addition to to-go beverage cups and trays, the company is also offering beverage bags, big carryout bags with handles, and beverage dispensers made from paperboard that keep drinks hot or cold for hours.

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