Monday Morning Minute: Oct. 25, 2021

Union Work

The Monday Morning Minute Returns

Your patience has been appreciated while we navigated technological issues that prevented the Monday Morning Minute from being distributed. We are back as of this week and look forward to catching you up on the latest Paper Sector news and events. Thank you to those of you who reached out with concern and for valuing the content of our weekly newsletter!

National Forest Products Week

Last week, we celebrated National Forest Products Week along with the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). This year marks the 61st anniversary of the annual, week-long celebration of all things forest products and the people that make them.

Approximately 950,000 individuals make up the forest products industry and produce sustainable, essential products. Throughout the pandemic our members and other individuals who work in the industry proved that paper and wood products are essential to every day life. From the paper towel you use to wipe a surface. The box protecting your online purchases. The paper you write notes on or send a letter to a loved one. The lumber used to build your house – it’s hard to imagine a day without using these sustainable forest products.

Stories from the industry were told all week with the hashtag #ForestProductsWeek; One of those stories is from Tyrone Hussey - a Deink Control Operator at Essity’s Barton, AL Mill (USW Local 1535) and military veteran who was brand new to the industry when he started in 2003. Hussey says, “The process of making tissue and paper towels is amazing! When you see the stuff that you make out in the world and think, ‘Wow, this is us!’…Even looking at a piece of tissue and knowing that it’s yours. It’s just an incredible feeling.” Read his full story here: The Paper Industry Through the Eyes of a Military Veteran Control Operator: Tyrone Hussey. | American Forest and Paper Association (afandpa.org).

USW members also participated in National Forest Products Week on Facebook by sharing the jobs that they perform in the industry; like Jolene Mayer, a Die Cut Operator at PCA, and Alejandro Payan, who is a Folder-Gluer Operator. The following video, which highlights some USW members and thanks those paper and wood products employees who continue to deliver essential products during the pandemic:  https://youtu.be/Rc526jqHKes

For a longer recap of National Forest Products week and to read more stories from USW members and other individuals who work in the paper sector at the following link: National Forest Products Week | AF&PA (afandpa.org).

USW Members at Clearwater Paper in Neenah, WI Will Qualify for TAA Assistance

USW Local 2-482 – Clearwater Paper – Appleton, WI

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a petition filed for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits for the approximately 250 members at Clearwater Paper’s private label consumer and retail toilet and facial tissue facility in Neenah, WI. The TAA Program aids workers who have been adversely affected by foreign trade by providing opportunities to obtain the skills, credentials, resources, and support necessary to (re)build skills for future jobs.

Clearwater Paper announced in June that it would indefinitely close the facility in Neenah by the end of July 2021 and exit the away-from-home tissue business. As we’ve previously reported, tissue paper markets have been fickle throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While panic-buying driven by pandemic-related lockdowns overwhelmed retail tissue supply chains and drove up demand, away-from-home tissue markets faced a different story with the closure of offices, schools, airports, arenas etc.

Thermal Paper Final Antidumping Duty Margins

USW Locals 2-469, 708 & 266 – Appvion, Kanzaki Specialty Papers & Domtar Corporation – Appleton, WI; Ware, MA & West Carrollton, OH

In late September, the Department of Commerce provided the final dumping margins in the USW supported Thermal Paper case which impacts workers at Appvion Operation’s facility in Appleton, Wisconsin, Kanzaki Specialty Paper’s facility in Ware, Massachusetts, and Domtar Corporation’s facility in West Carrollton, Ohio. Dumping occurs when a country or company exports a product at a price that is lower in the foreign importing market than the price in the exporter's domestic market.

The Department of Commerce does the research and analysis of the petitioner's case, and these final results show dumping margins that are significant (see below), and if the ITC votes to implement these duties on October 26th, they will then go into place. Workers and their employers are one step closer in the trade case process. 

Country

Dumping Rates

Germany

2.9%

Japan

135% to 140%

South Korea

6.19%

Spain

37.07% to 41.45%

 

Safety

Annual Hazard Alert Reminder– Dead-Legged Pipe Rupture

As cold weather approaches and temperatures start to drop, we’d like to remind the sector of an incident that occurred in 2013. The incident occurred at a non-paper sector facility, however, the hazard applies to all industrial sites.

Two workers in a control room noticed what appeared to be a steam leak or a non-normal white-colored vapor cloud traveling less than six-feet off the ground. According to the control room operator, the operations at this time appeared to be running normal. The two workers then left the control room to investigate what was causing the vapor cloud. As they neared the area, a violent explosion and fire occurred. This resulted in substantial damage to the facility and the two workers being seriously burned and admitted into a burn ward. The incident triggered a major emergency response of up to 40 fire departments, community evacuations and environmental issues. Not long after the incident, management decided to permanently shut down operations causing about 100 workers to be unemployed.

A three-foot long vertical pipe that was dead-legged split open due to freezing conditions outside and re-leased propane gas which subsequently found an ignition source and ignited. The dead-legged pipe had been out of service for almost 17-years. The pipe remained in place without heat tracing, insulation, or a means to drain water. This freezing and thawing action lead to the piping integrity issues and its ultimate failure.

While this was a non-paper sector incident, the hazard could be present in the paper industry due to similar machinery and piping that exists under pressurized circumstances. Please see the attached full Hazard Alert, which details the lessons learned, or click here to access: https://www.usw.org/get-involved/hsande/resources/hazard-alerts/Explosion-from-Dead-Legged-Pipe-Rupture.pdf

Industry Update

Expanding Graphic Packaging Site in Kalamazoo, MI Received Additional One-Year Tax Abatement

USW Local 2-1010 – Graphic Packaging – Kalamazoo, MI

The Kalamazoo City Commission approved another one-year tax abatement for the Graphic Packaging Mill in Kalamazoo, MI on October 18th. The exemption will expire in December 2022 and is an extension of an existing tax break that was approved by the city commission in September 2020. The city’s original $1.6 million tax abatement plan was approved by the commission and intended to be spread out over 12-years, but the state of Michigan only approved one-year of it, forcing the city commission to revisit the issue this fall.

The facility is currently in the end-phases of a $600 million expansion and installation of a new coated recycled paperboard machine, which is expected to start up on November 1st of this year. The new machine will have the capacity of 500,000 tons/year and will bring the entire mill’s capacity to almost 900,000 tons/year and will be the largest machine of its kind in North America.

PCA Jackson Mill Producing Corrugated Medium on Smaller J1 Paper Machine

USW Locals 361 & 1083 – Packaging Corporation of America – Jackson, AL

In late September, PCA’s Jackson mill began producing corrugating medium on its J1 uncoated freesheet (UFS) paper machine after taking downtime earlier in the month. The startup and grade switch come after the mill’s larger J3 machine permanently converted from UFS to corrugating medium earlier this year. Between the two machines, almost 500,000 tons/year of UFS capacity has been removed from the market.

International Paper Completes Spin-Off of Global Printing Paper Business

USW Locals 497 & 4-5 – Sylvamo – Ticonderoga, NY

On October 1st, International Paper announced that it had completed the spin-off of its global printing papers business, which is now operating as Sylvamo Corporation. Sylvamo is now the second largest uncoated freesheet paper producer by capacity, behind Domtar and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange as “SLVM”.

The Company recently announced price increases of 6-9% on offset, office opaques, uncoated bristols, envelope, and specialty paper grades. These price increases have arrived at a time when the United States is experiencing a paper shortage due to supply chain issues and the great amount of capacity shuts that have occurred in the market within the last year, as well as a pick-up in demand from schools and offices reopening. 

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