Monday Morning Minute: Nov. 9, 2020

Union Work

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Signs Statewide Ban on Single-Use Paper Bags

USW Local 318 – Ron Pak – South Plainfield, N.J. – Despite the USW’s best efforts to stop a statewide ban on the use of paper bags in the state of New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law N.J. Senate Bill 864/Assembly Bill 1978, which assert a blanket ban on both single-use plastic and paper bags. In October, the USW wrote a letter to Governor Murphy requesting that he conditionally veto the portion of the legislation that includes paper bags in the ban. Not only do our members make the brown paper for these bags in mills like International Paper in Campti, La., and Savannah, Ga., or Port Townsend Paper in Port Townsend, Wash., but nearly 200 USW members from Local 318 who convert this paper in bags at Ron Pak in South Plainfield, N.J., will be directly impacted by this legislation.

While we support legislation that addresses the waste of single-use plastic bags, the inclusion of paper bags not only undermines an environmentally responsible option for consumers, but also a safe one during the current pandemic. The paper bags that our members make are biodegradable and do not have the same environmental impact as single use plastics. Overall, the pulp and paper industry has a 68 percent recycling rate and much of the industry has installed efficiency technologies to reduce the use of energy, water and other inputs.

New Jersey is now the only state in the nation to ban paper bags, which are made from a renewable resource and are recyclable, reusable and compostable, providing a safe packaging option to protect purchases from damage and contamination.

Amcor Global Trade Union Alliance Meeting

The Amcor Global Trade Union Alliance met, virtually, on November 5 to take stock of the global labor network relationships and activities. The Amcor Global Alliance was formed in 2018 after Amcor’s acquisition of Bemis Company. After COVID-19 hit, the alliance sent Amcor a letter requesting to establish dialogue between the trade union network and corporate management as each site around the globe has different safety protocols in place, but management declined.

The Global Alliance adopted an action plan and discussed next steps to address the company and build solidarity within the network.


International Paper Joint Converting Safety Meeting

On Thursday, November 5, the USW-International Paper Joint Converting Safety Committee met virtually due to ongoing travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee meets annually to promote continuous improvement in converting plant safety through the study of root cause(s) of incidents and near misses, use of control systems to eliminate safety hazards, and the drive of programs, projects & best practices down into and across the converting system.

The USW recently appointed two new members to the labor side of the committee – Colt Kovatch from the Eighty Four, Pa., box shop and Pete Sosa from Edinburg, Texas. Topics at this year’s meeting consisted of t-loading, right-to-act and safe work conversations.

Industry Update

Domtar’s Johnsonburg Mill Celebrates 131 Years of Papermaking

USW Local 10-701 – Domtar – Johnsonburg, Pa. – In October, Domtar’s Johnsonburg paper mill celebrated 131 years of papermaking. The mill has been the backbone and backdrop of the small town of Johnsonburg since 1889. Today, the Johnsonburg Mill supports more than 350 local jobs and has an estimated regional economic impact of $850 million. In many of these communities, paper mills have influenced the development of the town and is often the area’s largest employer.

The Johnsonburg Mill is a great example of how a mill can shape a town as it literally splits the topography of the town in half. It’s also contributed to many community projects, such as sponsoring brand-new electronic score boards at the high school, supporting local recreational ball fields and participating in Adopt-a-Highway projects.

International Paper Rome Mill Awards Grant to Salvation Army

USW Local 804 – International Paper – Rome, Ga. – The International Paper mill in Rome, Ga., and International Paper Foundation awarded $12,500 to the Salvation Army to provide assistance to those in need in the Rome and surrounding county area. Funding will go toward assisting walk-in clients with groceries, the continuation of a community-wide evening meal that generally feeds 40-plus people and to provide clothing vouchers for free clothing from the group’s Family Store.

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