Monday Morning Minute: Nov. 4, 2019

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 4-75 – Gorham Paper and Tissue – Gorham, N.H.

On October 21, a USW member was injured at the Gorham Paper and Tissue mill located in Gorham, N.H., when a bale of recycled fiber fell from a stack behind him, pinning him against an adjacent stack of recycled fiber. The complete details are unknown at this time, but preliminary information is that the member was helping the PM 9 stock prep crew fill the hydro pulper with fiber bales. While he was assisting in de-wiring recycled fiber bales by cutting and pulling the baling wires, he stepped back to where the recycled bales, stacked three high, were directly behind him. After the truck driver pushed a bale into the hydro pulper driver, the crew saw that a bale of fiber weighing approximately 1,200 lbs. had fallen from the stack and pinned the member between the fallen bale and an adjacent stack of fiber. Prior to being staged near the hydro pulper, the bales were stored in an area that exposed them to moisture.

The member suffered a broken leg, sternum, ribs, back, a punctured lung and a bruised heart. OSHA was on site and the investigation is ongoing.

USW Health, Safety and Environment staffer Trish Creech is assisting the local with the investigation, and Emergency Response team member Dan Fowkes is assisting the family.

Union Work

PCA Locals Participate in Renewal Bargaining Meeting

USW Locals 1035, 2-200, 1774, 231, 1560, 1676, & 361 – PCA – Lancaster, Pa.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Marshalltown, Iowa; Burlington, Wis.; Ashland, Ohio; Middletown, Ohio, & Jackson, Ala. (sheeter) – On October 23, USW International leadership, staff and local leaders of the PCA mills and box shops with contracts expiring in 2019 met in Milwaukee with general managers and senior labor relations and local human resources leadership to discuss the renewal bargaining process for local agreements. The USW uses renewal bargaining meetings to inform participants about the differences between renewal and traditional bargaining and negotiating under the current master agreement. 

International Paper Renewal Bargaining Summit

USW Locals 1167, 497, 4-5, 8-1408, 14693, 11-531, 381, 7-647 – International Paper – New Bern, N.C.; Ticonderoga, N.Y.; Petersburg, Va.; Eighty Four, Pa; St. Louis, Mo.; Spotswood, N.J.; Des Plaines, Ill. – On October 30, staff and local leaders from International Paper locations with local collective bargaining agreements expiring between December 2019 and May 2020 met in Indianapolis with the USW paper sector leadership, general managers, and senior labor relations and local human resources leadership. These sessions are held a few times per year for the company and the union to facilitate the local and master bargaining process.

A union-only session was held prior to the start of the renewal bargaining meeting with the company to review new materials for new hire orientations and internal organizing initiatives.

Did You Know?

According to the Shift Project, unpredictable schedules can be brutal for hourly workers, upending their lives. Created in 2016 to study the effects of workplace scheduling practices on worker health and wellbeing, the Shift Project has learned that unpredictable schedules are a much more significant determinant of poor health outcomes than low wages.

One Shift Project study concluded that schedules have a pervasive influence on economic security, the ability to fulfill care obligations, and parents’ and children’s wellbeing. Routinely unpredictable and unstable schedules have predictable and stark consequences: elevating hunger and other material hardships, destabilizing children’s routines and care arrangements, and increasing children’s anxiety and tendency to act out. The study also showed that workers with unstable schedules experience higher rates of turnover, and such job loss has well-documented negative effects on household finances, psychological wellbeing and health.

While the data in this study is pulled primarily from the retail and food-service industries, the findings are relevant to the paper industry as long, irregular hours are pervasive: Our members often experience short notice of mandatory overtime assignments, and turnover rates are high in certain mill demographics. The USW paper sector leadership is actively working on a multi-faceted approach to address these issues. Click here to read the full publication, and explore other studies by the Shift Project. 

Safety

IndustriALL/UNI Sticker Action

During the month of November, the USW paper sector, along with global union affiliates UNI and IndustriALL, is participating in the second of three actions highlighting the 3 “R’s” of work – The Right to Know, the Right to Act, and the Right to Participate. Enough stickers for each member of every local union in the paper sector and a leaflet that can be copied locally are being sent to presidents or unit presidents, if applicable. Please pick a day this month to coordinate a sticker action with your local.

The Pro-GE union in Germany held its European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for the Paper Industry in Brussels on October 30. The meeting is a bi-partisan committee with Employers Confederation of European Paper Industries and USW affiliate, IndustriALL. The committee adopted its new joint work program for the next year, titled “health and safety – updating our good practices guide.” A report was given on the ongoing 3-R campaign. A photo of the participants can be seen below.

USW Local Union 2-370 and 2-1170 – Neenah Inc. – Neenah, Wis.

A local union safety committee completed a two-day workshop as part of the United Steelworkers/Tony Mazzocchi Center’s “Preventing Fatalities and Improving Safety and Health in the Paper Sector” project.  On October 22, 2019, local union leaders and safety committee members participated in the first day of the workshop. Management counterparts joined them for the second day, focusing on “Increasing the Effectiveness of Labor-Management Safety and Health Committees.”

It was the first time the Neenah Inc., facility experienced this type of workshop. Union and management participants discussed the site’s key strengths, which included equal union and management participation with open communications, a willingness to work together and having two co-chairs.  Also discussed were suggestions to increase the effectiveness of the safety and health committee by having adequate time for meetings, preparation and follow-up on items between meetings, regular walk-around inspections/audits and formulating a process for handling workplace change. Also covered was a process for union-management accident/incident/near-miss investigations to identify root causes and system failures, including a notification process when a near-miss, accident/incident occurs.

Participants identified hazards and discussed tools to address several current health and safety concerns such as staffing, green-on-green training, rapid advancement and long work hours.

The workshop received very positive feedback from participants, including “Engaging and great involvement from all parties,” “Real life examples were powerful,” “Well balanced for a union/management group,” “Enjoyed working with small groups,” and “Very good, works well with the subject matter.”

Industry Update

Atlas Holdings Purchasing Additional Shares in Verso

SEC filings in September show that Atlas and Blue Wolf Capitol invested about $2.8 million to purchase 246,097 shares of common stock in Verso. This indicates that the private equity companies could be interested in acquiring Verso. Atlas and Blue Wolf own USW-represented companies, Twin Rivers Paper in Madawaska, Maine, Lyonsdale, N.Y., Little Falls, N.Y., and Pine Bluff, Ark., as well as Finch Paper in Glens Falls, N.Y., French Paper in Niles, Mich., and Soundview Paper located in Elmwood Park, N.J. USW-represented Verso facilities include three coated and specialty paper mills located in Wisconsin, and the recently closed Luke, M.D., mill. USW paper sector leadership will monitor the developments and the potential impact to the membership.

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