Monday Morning Minute: Nov. 18, 2019

In Rembrance

USW Paper Sector Mourns the Loss of USW District 12 Director Bob LaVenture

On November 14, we learned that USW District Director 12 Bob LaVenture passed away unexpectedly while on the road picketing with Asarco workers on strike in Arizona. USW International President Tom Conway issued the following statement: “Bob was a tireless union activist who always fought on the side of working people, first in his home state of Wisconsin and later on behalf of our members in District 12.

“Bob joined the labor movement in 1970 when he went to work at an International Harvester – now Navistar – foundry in Waukesha, Wis., as a member of Local 3740. He served many roles, including trustee, local union steward, vice president and president. As local president, Bob helped develop the Navistar Education Center, the first employee education center in Wisconsin. He then went on to help develop other education centers as a state AFL-CIO coordinator.”

Click the link to view President Conway’s full statement:

Bargaining News

WestRock Locals Reach Tentative Agreement on New Master

The 71 USW WestRock local unions, representing 9,400 bargaining unit members, reached a tentative agreement on a new Master Agreement with WestRock on Friday, November 15. Economic provisions include all above-industry standard gains and no concessions. WestRock local membership will be receiving more details in the coming weeks to present during ratification meetings.

The council participated in coordinated solidarity actions over the past year, and management took note. The USW WestRock Council is pictured below discussing the union’s agenda for the week. Solidarity at work!

Did You Know?

Digital Screen Time Is Distracting  

Nearly 90 percent of teachers and parents say reading 15 pages on paper every day can help improve a student’s memory and language development. Because paper doesn’t have flashing notifications that distract us, we spend more time and engage more of our senses while reading paper. According to the Paper and Packaging Board’s Fourth Annual Back-to-School Report, 94 percent of college students say paper is essential to helping them achieve their academic goals, and 89 percent of students in grade school agree. Meanwhile, 92 percent of educators and 90 percent of parents agree that reading on paper can benefit any student.


From the Center for Chemical Process Safety – What Does That Button Do? 

A safety system needs to have a well-defined purpose. When activated, it must reliably respond with the action, including a stop (ESD, emergency shutdown), as designed. Do you know how these safety systems operate for your processes? If you ask others how they expect these systems to operate, do you get different answers? There must be only one way for each critical system to perform, and everyone needs to know it.

The objective of a process control system is to keep the process within the critical safety control limits. It is important to understand that, when the process exceeds the specified control limits, action is required. This can include activating the ESD system. Operators must be trained in what actions to take, and when.

Did you know: 1.Safety systems, including ESDs, are designed, programmed and tested to meet the safety requirements of the process and equipment. All changes need a Management of Change (MOC) review; 2. Safety systems, just like pressure relief devices, are there to protect, not to control the process; 3. Safety systems have defined responses to power, instrument air or other utility failure. This information is often noted on the piping and instrumentation diagram (PID); and 4. Many companies have a Stop Work Authority policy, which allows, and even demands, that operators stop the process if it is out of control.

For more information and for advice on what you can do to address safety control limits, click here:

Industry Update

Pixelle Specialty Solutions to Purchase Verso Mill in Stevens Point, Wis.  

USW Local 2-116 – Verso – Stevens Point, Wis. – On November 12, Pixelle Specialty Solutions announced that it signed a definitive purchase agreement to acquire two specialty paper mills from Verso: One, represented by the USW, located in Stevens Point, Wis., and another in Jay, Maine. After the acquisition is complete, Pixelle will become the largest specialty paper business in the U.S. in terms of annual production. According to a press release on the sale, the company will have a total of 12 paper machines and the capacity to produce more than one million tons of paper annually. The sale is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020.

Pixelle was formed in 2018 by private equity group, Lindsay Goldberg. The USW represents the two other uncoated free sheet mills in the company’s portfolio, located in Spring Grove, Pa., and Chillicothe, Ohio; both were formerly owned by P.H. Glatfelter. 

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 Jim McKay

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