Monday Morning Minute: Oct. 19, 2020

Union Work

Workers Under Attack Due to National Labor Relations Board Decisions

Recent decisions by President Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have been significantly detrimental to labor unions over the past four years. The NLRB has systematically dismantled workers’ rights, making it harder for workers to organize unions, harder for workers who are already union members to bargain and enforce good contracts, and harder for workers to fight back against bad employer behavior.

A handful of the most egregious attacks on American workers from the NLRB involved limiting organizing rights, withdrawing recognition from existing unions, cutting off union communication, allowing employers to make mid-term unilateral changes, the silencing of workers’ voices, ending dues collection, etc. In August of this year, the board’s general counsel sided with a nursing home that fired three workers for voicing COVID-19 safety concerns, making it harder for workers to address health and safety risks even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb. In June, the board gave employers the unilateral right to suspend or fire workers in the period after a union is organized but before a first contract is reached.

NLRB attacks have resulted in lower wages and benefits, less-secure retirements and less power on the job and at the bargaining table for American workers. Click here to view more details about each decision: https://www.uswvoices.org/workers-under-attack

Kimberly Clark Global Network Meeting and Council Meeting

USW Locals 10-448, 2-86, 1575, 1421 & 2-482 – Kimberly-Clark – Chester, Pa.; Marinette, Wis.; Mobile, Ala., & Neenah/Menasha, Wis. – Last month, the annual Kimberly-Clark Global Network Meeting was held virtually. Aaron Balhke LU president of USW Local 2-86, and Maurice Jackson, LU president of USW Local 1575, along with USW district and International leadership, UNI Global Union and IndustriALL delegates from Belgium, Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia, Peru, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom and Uruguay, and Kimberly-Clark corporate leadership participated in the meeting.

The company presented a business overview and safety update around the COVID-19 pandemic. Local leaders expressed concern over previously announced company-wide restructuring—In January 2018, the company announced that it would shut down 10 plants around the world and eliminate 5,500 jobs despite record-breaking profits in the personal care business.

The annual meeting is coordinated by UNI Global Union Graphical and Packaging. In 2014, the company and union network agreed and released a joint statement to meet annually for the purpose of forming a social dialogue regarding social responsibility and workplace rights. The meeting provides a platform for local union leadership to directly address concerns with corporate leadership, which leads to a better working relationship.

Safety

USW Hazard Alerts Are Relevant Across All Sectors of Our Union

The USW develops Hazard Alerts after serious safety incidents occur in each sector that we represent; but, USW Hazard Alerts are not exclusive to the industry in which an incident occurs. After releasing the Hazard Alert regarding a fatal accident with paper bale staging and storing in last week’s Monday Morning Minute, a local union safety representative from the chemical sector reached out to state that the company he works for also bales and stacks cardboard and the same incident could happen to any of the members or supervisors at his site.

USW Hazard Alerts identify hazards, eliminate and control the factors that caused them and builds solidarity in our union. Being a part of a strong and powerful union with roots in many industries allows more tools and resources to be available to our members.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect – A National and State-by-State Profile of Worker Safety and Health in the United States

Each year, the AFL-CIO produces a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. The 2020 edition titled, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” marks the 29th year that this report has been generated. This year’s report features national and state information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It also includes information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report, in 2018, 5,250 working people were killed on the job and an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases. Each and every day, on average, 275 U.S. workers die from hazardous working conditions. The job fatality rate remained the same as the previous year—3.5 per 100,000 workers—indicating little progress on making workplaces safer in recent years. The toll and burden of occupational injuries and illnesses continues to be enormous.

Many front-line and essential workers are people of color who are risking their lives going to work every day to provide food and services to our nation. The report shows that even before the pandemic, people of color were most at risk of dying or being injured in the workplace. In 2018, there was an increase in the number of Latino worker deaths: Workers’ fatality rate remained the same at 3.7 per 100,000 workers, but it remains greater than the overall job fatality rate at 3.5. The number of Latino workers who died on the job increased this year, with 67% of those being immigrant workers.

To view the entire report, click here: https://aflcio.org/reports/death-job-toll-neglect-2020

Industry Update

WestRock to Close Solid Bleached Sulfate (SBS) Paper Machine at Evadale Mill

USW Locals 801 & 825 – WestRock – Evadale, Texas – On October 6, WRK announced the closure of its #4 paper machine at the Evadale, Texas, mill, which produces solid bleached sulfate (SBS) paper. SBS is typically used in folding cartons, liquid packaging and food service; Evadale’s #4 paper machine produces cup and plate stock. Restaurants, coffee shops and other food service entities that have been impacted by various lockdown measures have caused a decrease in SBS demand. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, consumption at food services and accommodations has declined by 18% year-to-date, reflecting a drop of ~26% compared to March 2019 and ~51% compared to April 2019.

The Evadale paper machine #4 closure is expected to occur by the end of 2020 and will impact 45 USW members. The remaining two machines at the Evadale mill will continue to produce liquid packaging, foodservice, food and premium coated pre-print liner for corrugated boxes, among other grades.

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