Monday Morning Minute: Oct. 26, 2020

INCIDENT ALERT

USW Local 1803 – Graphic Packaging – Augusta, Ga.

On October 21, a contractor was seriously injured while conducting diving operations to clean grates when a pump was started and pulled her into the grating. The complete details are unknown at this time and we will continue to monitor the situation for lessons to be learned.

Union Work

Under-the-Radar Actions are Impacting Our Ability to Stay Safe at Work, Negotiate Good Contracts, and Keep Our Jobs Secure

In addition to the series of anti-union decisions by the National Labor Relations Board that we wrote about recently, workers are also under attack through other under-the-radar actions that are impacting our ability to stay safe at work, negotiate better contracts and keep our jobs secure. In recent years, more states became right to work, attacks on public employees’ rights increased, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took a strong pro-corporate turn, and anti-union legislation received more attention at the federal level.

Anti-union actions at the highest levels—like Executive Orders 13836, 13837 and 13839 from May 2018, which go after federal workers’ use of what’s called “official time” to engage in activities to represent members—make it easier to fire federal workers without due process and hamstring the collective bargaining process. For decades, companies exploited a loophole that let them get around reporting large amounts of the money they spent on consultants that specialize in undermining workers as they try to form a union. A new rule corrected the situation in early 2016, but the current administration killed that rule in July 2018, giving the billion-dollar union avoidance industry a gift.

Additionally, safety and health rules and regulations have been under attack, evident through OSHA’s refusal to develop an enforceable standard and issue citations for COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus is one of the greatest threats to worker health since OSHA was created. Under the Occupational Safety & Health Act, OSHA can create an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for new hazards that pose grave danger to employees. The AFL-CIO and its affiliate unions, including USW, formally petitioned OSHA to put out an ETS for COVID-19. When OSHA refused, the unions sued in court and, ultimately, OSHA won when it claimed that the agency did not need an enforceable standard to ensure workers are protected from COVID-19. Over the course of the whole pandemic, OSHA has only issued 37 citations for unsafe conditions related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, thousands of workers have gotten sick from workplace exposure and many have died.

Our members know that often it takes years to convince an employer to make safety improvements. That’s why we need the protections that government rules and regulations provide, and labor needs to continue to be a part of the process by adding our expertise. Click here to read more about the subtle ways in which workers are under attack: http://images.usw.org/download/rapid/Under_the_Radar.pdf

First USW Virtual Education Conference – “Smarter is Stronger”

Registration is now open for the USW’s first virtual Education Conference being held November 17 and 18. The conference will consist of nearly 100 different training sessions about representation, officer duties, health and safety, and many other topics that reinforce the great work of our union and provide you with practical knowledge to take back to your local and workplace. There will also be district breakouts and opportunities to socialize with others from our activist groups like Veterans of Steel and Next Gen.

This conference will be structured like in-person, USW trainings. You will choose the classes you want to attend, register for them (coming soon!), and once the class you have selected begins, just push the attend button --much like you would walk into the room at an in-person conference. For more information on registering and for the conference schedule, click here: https://www.usw.org/events/virtual-education-conference.

Safety

2020 National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) Conference

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) will hold its annual conference, virtually, this year December 1 – 3 and December 8 – 10. National COSH engages and impacts workers in communities across the country through a network of 23 state and local non-profit coalition and committees on occupational safety and health.

The conference brings together a diverse, inclusive and bilingual group of workers, occupational health and safety experts, unions, activists and academics united around common goals. This year, it will feature the latest on COVID-19: how it can be transmitted, how it can be best controlled, and strategies to win protections against it and other workplace hazards. The conference will also cover how to investigate accidents, file complaints, fight back against blaming workers, support injured workers and address health disparities through racial justice.

Click here for more information and to register: https://nationalcosh.org/COSHCON2020

Industry Update

Verso has Slowed Down Efforts to Sell Wisconsin Rapids Mill Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

USW Locals 2-187 & 2-94 – Verso Corporation – Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.– In June, Verso announced that it would indefinitely idle its USW-represented mill in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and non-union mill in Duluth, Minn., while “exploring viable and sustainable alternatives for both mills.” Last week, the company stated that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would slow down its effort to find a buyer for the Wisconsin Rapids mill.

The shutdown of the Wisconsin Rapids mill started in July and will continue in phases through the end of the year. One hundred forty (140) of the mill’s 902 employees worked through the end of August, and 97 worked through the end of September. About 60 employees continue working at the mill through the end of the year. In a local news article from the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, USW Local Union 2-94 President Tim Pavlik stated: “You’re going to lose a lot of people. A lot of people are gone already. You’re going to need a workforce to operate this mill…” District and International leadership have been monitoring developments and continue to work on researching potential opportunities around the sale.

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