Monday Morning Minute: Feb. 4, 2019

Union Work

USW Local 1973 – Graphic Packaging – Middletown, Ohio – Local Reached a New 3-Year Deal

The Graphic Packaging local representing the paperboard mill in Middletown, Ohio, ratified a new three-year contract on January 28 after waging an eight-month fight with the company to retain key benefits that would certainly have had an impact on future union members and the time they would spend with their families. The company proposed a new vacation day system that would, essentially, turn it into a two-tier system by capping new hires at five weeks of vacation, while grandfathered employees would maintain eligibility to earn a sixth week of vacation.

USW Staff Representative Carl Vineyard said: “This committee took the paper bargaining guidelines very seriously and saw the long-term implications and need to support our union!” Congratulations to the local for standing together in solidarity! This clearly shows that when a local uses the strength and solidarity of its members and the tools available in bargaining, positive results will happen. Well done, congratulations!

Labor History

After paper workers’ unsuccessful inaugural fight for the elimination of Saturday night shifts, their focus moved to obtaining eight-hour work days. The issue was an important one across the labor movement and came to a head in 1884, after the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions called for all workers to have eight-hour days by May 1, 1886. On May 4, 1886, the Haymarket rally in Chicago turned deadly due to a person throwing a bomb at police. The incident set the movement back by decades.

By 1916, the federal government passed the Adamson Act, which required an eight-hour day and overtime pay for railroad workers. Two years earlier, Henry Ford introduced shorter hours and higher wages to incentivize productivity. On April 1, 1916, 16 paper mills in the Fox River Valley announced they had changed their schedules from two to three shifts. This gave all workers an 8-hour day instead of 11 hours, and the mills paid the same wages for the shorter hours. The USW still represents many of those companies, including Kimberly-Clark and Neenah Paper, today.

Safety

Full-Time Safety Representative Training – Pittsburgh, Pa. – January 28 through February 1

Full-time safety representatives in the paper sector met for five days of training last week in Pittsburgh. The reps. received instruction on preventing fatalities and life-altering injuries and improving health and safety in the paper sector. They learned from each other and underwent the Paper Sector Critical Hazards curriculum. Participants discussed individual goals they wanted to achieve by the end of the week, and new full-time safety representative job description language was introduced.

Photos from the training and of the participants are below.  

Industry Update

USW Local 870 – Soundview Paper – Elmwood Park, N.J. – Major Fire at Marcal/Soundview Paper in Elmwood Park, N.J.

A massive eight-alarm fire that started on January 30 has mostly destroyed the Soundview paper mill in Elmwood Park, N.J. The converting assets are said to be gone, and the extent of damage to the infrastructure is unknown. Over 400 USW members are employed at the facility, and approximately 200 people were working at the time of the fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The company, which originally began as family-run Marcal Paper, changed its name to Soundview Paper in 2012, and then was acquired by private equity company, Atlas Holdings. The flagship facility in Elmwood Park manufactures toilet and facial tissue products, paper towels and napkins.

***Please consider how we can help these members. If your plant is nearby and hiring – let us know. If you have a relative that has a plant that is hiring and in need of high-quality, skilled and versatile workers – let us know***

USW Local 470 – Huhtamaki – Waterville, Maine – Four-Alarm Fire Broke Out at Huhtamaki Mill in Waterville, Maine

On the evening of January 29, a fire broke out in the dryer area and spread to the roof of the Huhtamaki plant located in Waterville, Maine. While the complete details are unknown at this time, the state fire marshal investigator attributes the fire to a malfunction in the mill’s dryer unit, which generates significant amounts of heat. This heat likely spread quickly to the roof, causing the fire to overrun the sprinkler system.

The large converting facility produces compostable paper plates, cups and food packaging containers under the brand, Chinet. According to USW Staff Representative Mike Higgins, the damage will come close to $2 million and is the worst fire the mill has ever experienced. Approximately 450 USW members, out of 485 total workers, are employed at the facility. Due to mill Emergency Response Team (ERT) responders and quick action, everyone was evacuated safely.

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.

Click here to download this as a PDF.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor Jim McKay

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