USW Calls on Paper Industry to Institute Safeguards Against Deadly Fungal Infection

CONTACT: Jess Kamm Broomell, 412-562-2444,                                                                                                        

(Pittsburgh) – The United Steelworkers union (USW) today called for testing and cleaning in paper mills across the industry after a blastomycosis outbreak killed one worker and sickened more than 90 others at a facility in Escanaba, Mich.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the contractor who lost his life to this infection,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “Moving forward, we cannot allow this to happen again. Rather than waiting to see if cases develop at other paper mills, management across the industry must be proactive and institute robust safeguards now.” 

The Escanaba mill, owned by Billerud, is currently idled while it undergoes deep cleaning. 

The USW is working with management and national health and safety officials to determine the precise source of the outbreak and ensure workers receive appropriate treatment. Blastomycosis is typically found in soil and decaying wood.

“The paper industry involves a number of potentially serious hazards, but we’ve made incredible progress in making it safer,” said USW International Vice President Leeann Foster, who leads bargaining in the USW’s paper sector. “This situation is no different. We must identify and eliminate the problem before it harms more workers.” 

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations. For more information:


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