Monday Morning Minute: Sept., 28, 2020

Union Work

Please Help Paperworkers Impacted by Natural Disasters

Hurricanes in the South, a derecho across the Midwest, and forest fires up and down the West Coast are impacting paperworkers and their families. Many of our union brothers and sisters work and live in the areas impacted by these storms. Please see the piece below for mills impacted by Hurricane Laura.  The most recent storm, Hurricane Sally, caused massive flooding in the Cantonment, Fla., area where International Paper has a major paper mill. Meanwhile, another named tropical storm develops in the Gulf of Mexico.

Steelworkers are known for helping others, and one way to do this is to give a tax-deductible donation to the United Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Fund. All dollars raised go toward helping our members put their lives back together. Checks should be made payable to: United Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization. Please note “Disaster Relief Fund” in the memo line. Please mail contributions to: United Steelworkers, Attn: Steelworkers Charitable Fund, 60 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA  15222.

Thank you for helping your brothers and sisters in their time of need!

USW Firmly Opposes Ban on Paper Bags in New Jersey

On September 24, New Jersey’s State Legislature voted to passed Assembly Bill No. 1978 and Senate Bill No. 864, which impose a ban on both paper and plastic single-use bags. The USW strongly opposes the bill as it not only puts good-paying union jobs in the paper industry at risk, but also propagates the idea that paper and plastic, single-use bags are equally detrimental to the environment.

Overall, the pulp and paper industry has a 68% recycling rate, and some of the paper that is recovered is re-pulped to make new paper products. Plastic, on the other hand, deteriorates in quality and durability when it is ground down and recycled. The paper industry has also installed efficiency technologies to reduce the use of energy, water and other resources. The bags that the paper industry makes are biodegradable and do not have the same environmental impact as single-use plastics.

The USW represents nearly 200 members who make paper bags at Ron Pak in South Plainfield, N.J. Additionally, USW Paperworkers at mills across the country produce the paper that is turned into brown bags, and a decrease in orders due to a ban would impact orders and business for those mills.

Treating paper bags the same as plastic in this category is a mistake. This legislation now sits on the desk of Governor Phil Murphy, and he has 45 days to make a decision. It is imperative that he exercise his right to a conditional veto and ask the legislature to remove the paper bag ban. This would allow for the ban on plastic bags to become law without having a negative economic impact on those good, sustainable jobs in the paper industry.

USW Rapid Response has put together an Action Call on the ban that you can view at the following link:

And, for those members in the state of New Jersey, information is included on how you can take action by contacting Governor Murphy to tell him that the legislature needs to remove the paper bag ban.


USW Hazard Alert – Log Crane Accident Causes Double Leg Amputation

The USW Health and Safety Department released a new hazard alert for a log crane accident. A USW member suffered a double amputation of the legs when a hoist brake on a log crane malfunctioned. The victim and a supervisor were located on the working platform addressing issues that arose during the course of the day regarding brake failure.

During this time, the brake malfunctioned again. The crane’s grapple slowly dropped and landed onto a pile of logs, coming to rest in a vertical position. At the same time, the cable continued to unspool from the reel drum (backlashed) onto the working platform. The member was standing on the working platform re-spooling the cable into the reel drum when the grapple fell over on its side, causing the excess cable to quickly retract against the reel drum. The victim’s feet were caught by the unspooled cable and pulled in against the reel drum, causing the double leg amputation.

The accident analysis revealed that one out of five controls was engineering, the rest were administrative, and none of them functioned properly. Click the link to view the entire Hazard Alert and for recommendations to prevent recurrence:

Industry Update

Effects of Hurricane Laura on USW Mills

USW Locals 13-725, 1226, 13-1331, 13-391 & 1398 – Packaging Corporation of America, International Paper & WestRock – DeRidder, La., Campti, La., Orange, Texas, & Evadale, Texas

Late last month, Hurricane Laura made landfall along the southern Louisiana coast while destructive winds and floods inflicted damage along the Gulf Coast and inland into central Arkansas. Several USW paper mills operated within the path of the storm including PCA in DeRidder, La., represented by Locals 13-725 and 1226; International Paper in Campti, La., represented by Local 13-1331; International Paper in Orange, Texas, represented by Locals 13-391 and 1398, and WestRock in Evadale, Texas, represented by Locals 825 and 801.

Each of the mills idled ahead of the hurricane’s landfall, and did not sustain any major damage aside from power outages. According to Local 13-725 President Pat Jarrell, 85 percent of the homes were damaged in the town of DeRidder. Pat also said that “PCA brought in generators and AC units for every employee and a lot of food…It helped a lot of people’s emotional state because it leaves you emotionally torn as we are trying to put our lives back together.”

Pat credited District 13 and other USW locals for stepping up and assisting with food and water deliveries. Staff Representative Rick Erpelding said that “Local 752L is bringing more supplies this weekend and will be stopping at International Paper in Campti first.”

Fire at Evergreen Packaging Mill in Canton, N.C. Kills 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., after a fire broke out inside a tank on-site. The complete details are unknown at this time, but preliminary information is that the tank was being repaired as part of a maintenance outage at the mill. The fire occurred in a tank used in the bleaching process on the #2 Fiberline, which is the pine side of the pulp manufacturing department.

USW District 9 staff, the local union and paper sector safety staff are engaged with the company in the assessment of the situation.

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