Monday Morning Minute: April 11, 2022


USW Local 13029 – Greif – Van Wert, Ohio

On March 25, a USW member was seriously injured at Greif’s Van Wert, Ohio, fiber drum converting facility. The member, who works in the maintenance department, was troubleshooting a piece of equipment when it cycled on. The member’s head became caught in the machine and was crushed, causing injuries to his jaw and teeth.

Emergency Response Team District Coordinator Robert Schrock is assisting the family and members.  Health Safety and Environment Staff Juan Zuniga is assisting the local with the investigation.

Union Work

International Paper Mills Council Meeting

On Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8, the International Paper Mill Council met in Birmingham, Ala., to continue its work and discussions around bargaining a new Master Agreement in 2023. Last year, the council created a plan, with help from the paper sector leadership and Strategic Campaigns staff, that includes improving communication, education and action processes at each site and across all local unions.

The meeting last week allowed the group to discuss, in-person, the common matters that are impacting all sites, such as staffing issues regarding attraction and retention, 3rd party insurance administrator concerns, grievances and more. Additionally, the local leaders continued their work with Strategic Campaigns to form a campaign theme, implement a text messaging system and create a bargaining survey.

The council will continue holding its monthly videocall check-ins, and is committed to meet again, in-person, in the Fall. A photo of the group is included just below.

USW Meeting with IndustriALL and Pappers Global Unions on BillerudKorsnas’ Acquisition of Verso

USW Local 2-21 – Verso – Escanaba, Mich. – On Tuesday, April 5, USW leadership, along with Local 2-21 leaders Gerald Kell and Jaimie Dier, met virtually with the Swedish Paper Workers Union, Pappers, and IndustriALL to discuss the recent purchase of Verso by Swedish pulp and paper company BillerudKorsnas. This is the first time that the unions in all three countries have had the opportunity to come together since the purchase.

Leaders discussed relationships with local management, backgrounds, general insights, questions and strategies moving forward. Future meetings are currently being scheduled in order to keep the communication between all three unions ongoing.


International Paper Joint Converting Safety Committee Meeting in Savannah, Ga.

March 30--April 1, the International Paper Joint Converting Safety Committee met in Savannah, Ga., to review issues like green-on-green training, plan Effective Committee workshops, and develop a flow chart for Right-to-Act processes.

The committee also toured the mill in Savannah and observed the process of loading paper rolls horizontally on top of roll ends into rail cars, also known as “T-loading.” T-loading allows more rolls of paper to be transported at a time, increasing the weight of boxcars and decreasing the number of cars received by converting plants. If done incorrectly, T-loaded rolls of paper can shift around in transit and potentially fall out of the car upon opening or create safety issues when unloading, potentially resulting in severe injuries or fatalities.

Being able to witness T-loading at the beginning stages of the process was helpful to the committee in understanding the potential effects on the receiving end. Photos from the committee’s mill tour are included below.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Releases New Safety Video, “Simultaneous Tragedy: Fire at Evergreen Packaging”

USW Local 507 – Evergreen Packaging – Canton, N.C. – Last week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a new safety video about a fatal incident at the Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton, N.C. On September 21, 2020, a fire erupted in a confined space when a heat gun fell into a bucket of flammable resin, killing two contract workers. The CSB's safety video includes an animation of the events leading up to the incident, and interviews with both the CSB’s chairperson and supervisory investigator.

The video notes that during its investigation into the incident, the CSB identified four safety issues that led to the incident at Evergreen Packaging: hot work safety, pre-job planning, confined space safety and combustible materials of vessel construction. As a result of its investigation, the agency made recommendations to Evergreen Packaging, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Blastco – the contract company involved in the incident – to address those safety issues.

The video can be accessed at the following link: Simultaneous Tragedy: Fire at Evergreen Packaging - YouTube.

Industry Update

WestRock Announces Closure of its Panama City, Fla., Mill

USW Local 1342 – WestRock – Panama City, Fla. – On Friday, WestRock announced that it will be closing its mill in Panama City, Fla., by June 6, 2022. The mill produces unbleached kraft linerboard and market fluff pulp, with a combined annual capacity of 645,000 tons. The company will shift the manufacturing of select grades of containerboard to other mills.

According to a press release from the company, the mill in Panama City would require significant capital investment to maintain and improve going forward, and production of fluff pulp is not a priority in the company’s operational strategy. As we’ve been reporting recently, there is a significant amount of new containerboard capacity coming online in the market over the next couple of years, with over 2 million additional tons by the end of 2022. The closure of the Panama City mill represents about 17 percent of the expected capacity increase.

The USW represents approximately 200 members at the mill. In the coming weeks, the local will be working with the district on effects bargaining and making sure USW employers in the area know of the skilled workers available for employment.

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