Monday Morning Minute: Nov. 2, 2020

Union Work

New Local Agreement Ratified Post-Catastrophic Fire

USW Local 870 – Soundview Paper (Marcal Paper) – Elmwood Park, N.J. – Local Union 870 membership reached a new, three-year local agreement with Soundview Paper on October 23. The agreement is the first since a massive fire early last year, which began on the roof, destroyed about 90 percent of the mill. The local achieved industry-standard wage increases, an extra floating holiday, an increase in shift differential, additional vacation time and other items that were significant to the membership.

While the contract wins are, undoubtedly, great achievements for the local, the other big success that should be commended is the membership’s hard work and solidarity over the past, nearly, two years in bringing the historic mill back online.

According to Staff Representative Steve Green: “The members have been working hard since the fire getting the mill running. They have one (#11 pm) of the two paper machines on a 24/7 operation and are working to get the other (#10pm) up and running.”

To give some context to this accomplishment, a photo of the catastrophic fire that occurred in January 2019 can be seen below. The mill re-opened 11 months later, and the membership has been working tirelessly since to bring it back into operation. Congratulations to the local for its hard work and new contract.

More Paper-Based Mail-In Ballots Required During the 2020 Presidential Election Than Any Election in U.S. History

USW Local 377, 378, 4-5 & 497 – International Paper – Georgetown, S.C. & Ticonderoga, N.Y. – The New York Times recently profiled the production of paper mail-in ballots. The process begins with blank rolls of paper weighing about 1,000 pounds each. Rolls like this are produced at two USW-represented mills – International Paper in Georgetown, S.C., represented by USW Locals 377 and 378, and Ticonderoga, N.Y., represented by USW Locals 497 and 4-5. Each roll is converted to roughly 20,000 ballots. One of the largest ballot printers in the country went through 6,500 miles of paper to print 36 million ballots for 214 counties in 11 states during the 2020 general election. Of those, at least 16 million were mail-in ballots.

Paper is still considered the most secure and auditable voting technology that exists, and USW members have a crucial role in its production. After 20 years of glitchy attempts at paperless voting, election-security experts have come back around to paper ballots as the best option. To read more about the full process of producing ballots, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/26/magazine/printing-mail-in-ballots.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage.

Safety

Worker Safety, Your Workplace and Your Vote

The USW released a new video titled, “Worker Safety, Your Workplace and Your Vote” on the United Steelworkers’ Facebook page. Moderated by Steve Sallman, assistant director of the USW Health, Safety and Environment Department, and Ashlee Fitch, director of the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center, the webinar-style video also features four panelists: Dr. David Michaels, former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, Rick Engler, former board member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Peg Seminario, retired director of safety and health for the AFL-CIO, and Alexis Clemmons, USW Local Union 9-738 health and safety activist and 24-year storeroom clerk at International Paper Mill in Riegelwood, N.C.

Health and safety was one of the top five issues from the USW ‘Your Union, Your Voice” survey, and each panelist discusses how it links to other issues we face while standing up for workers; like how we end up paying for injuries and health issues at the bargaining table with union-negotiated health care. This is why it is important that funding for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and OSHA continues, regardless of the administration. These independent, fact-finding organizations provide critical resources and a baseline of expertise so that the union can focus on the specific health and safety issues that are indigenous to our members.

In the video, Alexis Clemmons states: “CSB findings are often applicable across all USW workplaces – many CSB videos show the normalization of factors around safety. I hope we never ever need the CSB at my mill for an incident investigation, but if we do, we can take comfort in knowing that a non-regulatory agency like the CSB will be here for us not only to get the lessons learned, but to share those learnings and training sessions of how to look for what failed and not who failed, as companies so often do, and also to prevent future tragedies.”

Click here to view the entire webinar: https://www.facebook.com/steelworkers/.

Industry Update

PCA Jackson Mill Begins to Produce Virgin Linerboard

USW Locals 361 & 1083 – Packaging Corporation of America – Jackson, Ala. – In April, it was announced that Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) would take temporary, economic downtime at its uncoated free sheet paper mill in Jackson, Ala., and in June, the company said that it would assess market conditions and extend the shutdown through September. Ultimately, the mill was shut for five months. It resumed uncoated free sheet operations on October 6, but PCA was uncertain whether it would continue that product as market conditions remained poor due to a significant decrease in demand attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On October 27, it was announced that the mill will begin producing high-performance virgin linerboard this month. The mill will also continue to produce uncoated free sheet on the same machine, depending on customer needs. The USW-represented site includes sheeter/converting operations that will transfer some workers to facilitate the mill’s new needs.

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