Monday Morning Minute: Oct. 5, 2020

Union Work

Collective Bargaining, Our Right to Organize, and an Anti-Union NLRB

Our right to collectively bargain began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935, creating a clear legal pathway for workers to join together to form labor unions and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions. It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is tasked with overseeing union elections and handling labor rights violations. It is governed by a five-person board (one member’s term expires each year) and a general counsel (four-year term), all of whom are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate.

Two recently-appointed board members have long histories working for corporations to advance anti-worker and anti-union decisions. Bill Emanuel was a shareholder at Littler Mendelson and Chairman John Ring was a partner at Morgan Lewis, two of the largest union avoidance firms in the U.S. The board takes its guidance from its general counsel, Peter Robb. Robb has worked for a series of union-busting law firms and, in 1981, was instrumental in President Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers. This resulted in employers’ ability to “permanently replace” or fire striking workers. Almost immediately upon assuming his role as general counsel, Robb issued a memo outlining the categories of cases issued by the NLRB under the prior administration for which he may seek to overturn precedent. The majority of those cases were wins for unions.

One of our union’s core principles is the right to collectively bargain. Our union understood right from the beginning that we couldn’t rely solely on negotiations to better our members’ lives. We would also have to push our government to act. Elected officials could help us by passing legislation to make us safer on the job, help us secure pensions, get better working hours and more. A legislative gain meant one more thing we didn’t have to bargain over. We could then focus on even greater goals in our negotiations. But the ability to collectively bargain is also fundamental, and recent cases under the current board threaten our ability to bargain and confront mid-term changes to our contracts.

Are America’s Forests Really Shrinking? – From Two Sides North America

Across all environmental issues related to the manufacture of paper-based products in North America, the harvesting of trees for wood fiber is arguably the most familiar, yet also the most misunderstood. Decades of misguided marketing messages that suggest using less paper protects forests along with anti-paper campaigns that twist scientific facts have left many feeling guilty for using products that are inherently sustainable. They are made from a renewable resource, are recyclable and are among the most recycled products in the world, and are manufactured using a high level of renewable energy.

Total forest area in the United States has actually increased since 1990.  This is due in great part to sustainable forest management practices implemented by the North American paper and forest products industry, the highest percentage of certified forests (nearly 50%) in the world, and laws and regulations aimed at protecting forest resources. In the U.S., total forest area increased by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, which averages out to the equivalent of around 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Canada’s total forest area remained relatively stable over the 30-year assessment period at approximately 857 million acres. Approximately 59 percent of forestlands in North America have long-term forest management plans.

Safety

Tammy Winker, USW Safety Advocate from Domtar’s Nekoosa Mill, is First Person to be Honored by the Pulp & Paper Safety Association in New Series of Articles

USW Local 59 – Domtar – Nekoosa, Wis.

Tammy Winker was chosen as the first person in a series of articles that the Pulp & Paper Safety Association (PPSA) will publish that highlights women who are making a strong and positive safety impact in the paper industry. Tammy is the USW safety advocate at Domtar’s Nekoosa Pulp and Paper Mill and has participated in the full- time health and safety representative training in Pittsburgh.

When asked about how she ended up in her current position, Tammy said, “Like many of us, I started out as a laborer, doing whatever it took. I advanced to various positions on the machines. I asked to be a company first responder and a member of the emergency response team. I jumped at the opportunity to become our USW Local 59 safety advocate. I’m the second person to occupy its 24-month term and the first woman.”

Specific ideas, programs or tips that Tammy recommends to maintain a culture of safety first are being overeducated on safety or procedures; lead by example and identify a potential concern every time you might see one. To read the full piece by the PPSA with Tammy, click here: https://ppsa.memberclicks.net/assets/Newsletter/Her%20Perspective%20Tammy%20Winker.pdf 

Update to Fire at Evergreen Packaging Mill in Canton, N.C. that Killed Two Contractors

USW Local 507 – Evergreen Packaging – Canton, N.C.

On Monday, September 21, two contractors were killed at the Evergreen Packaging mill in Canton, N.C. The fatalities occurred after a fire broke out inside an upflow tube and traveled to the D2 tank where the contractors were making repairs as part of a mill wide maintenance outage.

The Chemical Safety Bureau, (CSB), North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), USW District 9 staff, the local union and the USW HSE staff were on site last week. Details are limited at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.

Industry Update

Ox Industries to Reopen White Pigeon Paper Mill after Acquisition from Graphic Packaging

USW Local 1034 – GPI Midwest (White Pigeon Paper) – White Pigeon, Mich.

Ox Industries acquired the White Pigeon Paper Mill located in White Pigeon, Mich., in June, and in late September, announced that it had successfully restarted the mill. Prior to its shut by Graphic Packaging, the site produced coated recycled paperboard; Ox Industries will reopen the mill as a high-strength uncoated recycled paperboard mill.

The site will employ approximately 90 workers. The USW represents approximately 100 workers at two other Ox Industries mills located in Carthage, NY (Represented by USW Local 4-276) and Pekin, Ill. (represented by USW Local 7-188).

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