Monday Morning Minute: Sept. 5, 2022


USW Local 9-425 – WestRock – Roanoke Rapids, NC

On August 25, four USW members were burned at the Westrock mill in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., while replacing a condensate pump. The mill had just started back up from a 30+ hour outage when workers were instructed to replace a condensate pump. 

The group lockout was performed with five total points. Initial reports are that the lockout tagout was performed correctly, and a valve that did not have a double block and bleed present could have bled into the pipe between the lockout points, causing pressure to build. When the bolts for the pump were removed, the four individuals were sprayed with condensate.

Two victims were treated and released and two remain hospitalized in Chapel Hill, N.C. They are expected to recover. Staff rep. Ken Nettles and USW health and safety representative Trish Creech were on site to assist the local with the OSHA walkaround and the interviews with workers. This is an open investigation with OSHA. We will provide updates as they develop.

Union Work

Union Approval Rating is at its Highest Point Since 1965

According to a recent survey by Gallup, 71 percent of people in the United States approve of labor unions. The highest approval rating in history--75 percent--was recorded on this measure between 1953 and 1957. Support for labor unions dipped below 50 percent only once, in 2009. In the 13 years since then, support has grown.

Per the survey, with data collected between August 1-31, women (74 percent) were more likely than men to express approval of labor unions. The differences in responses based on age, education level and race were statistically insignificant, as they were all within the margin of error.

The latest approval figure comes amid a blitz of 2022 union victories across the country, with high-profile successes at major American corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks. The National Labor Relations Board reported a 57 percent increase in union election petitions filed during the first six months of 2021.


USW Local 8-1153 – WestRock – Hopewell, VA

WestRock’s Hopewell, VA Mill Participates in USW’s Effective Safety Committees Course – On August 23-24, the membership and management at WestRock’s Hopewell, Va., mill participated in the USW’s Effective Safety Committees Workshop. The two-part workshops are conducted by staff through the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center along with worker-trainers that are trained on paper sector-specific curriculum.

The workshop kicked off with a union-only session on the first day, followed by a joint session with local management on the second day. Topics covered include goals for workplace safety and health programs, union roles in promoting effective safety and health committees, involving members in safety and health/communications mapping and more. Photos from the sessions are included below.

Industry Update

USW Local 1505 – WestRock – Hodge, LA

WestRock Started a $97 Million Expansion and Modernization Project at its Hodge, LA Mill – Construction began the last week of August at WestRock’s containerboard mill in Hodge, La., on a $97 million project to modernize the facility. A new woodyard will be added, and new equipment will increase capacity and efficiencies, while reducing operating costs. Start-up of the new wood processing equipment is scheduled for the second half of 2023, followed by additional construction into 2024.

WestRock is utilizing Louisiana’s state Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which allows any manufacturing establishment expanding its Louisiana facilities eligible to receive exemption on buildings and equipment from state, parish and local property taxes for a period of ten years. Approximately 300 USW members work at the Hodge mill; the investment, inclusive of the support from state and local legislators, will ensure that good-paying, union jobs will be around for many years.

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 412-562-6961

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