Monday Morning Minute: Dec. 9, 2019

Union Work

PIUMPF Pension Plan – Action Required – Call Your Senator Today

Nearly 130 multi-employer pension plans are at risk of insolvency, this includes the Pace Industry Union Management Pension Fund (PIUMPF), a multi-employer pension fund which covers thousands of retired and working USW paperworkers. This crisis occurred because of a shrinking industry where many employers have gone out of business, leaving unfunded “orphans” in the plan. That, coupled with the 2008 financial crisis, has put multi-employer plans in a hole that they cannot climb out of without innovative assistance.

If nothing is done, over 1.3 million workers and existing retirees across the labor movement will face devastating benefit cuts and financial insecurity after a lifetime of hard work. The USW and the rest of the labor movement have a viable solution that will ensure retirees keep their hard-earned benefits and stabilize the multiemployer pension system overall. That solution is the Butch Lewis Act. Structured on federal loans to the funds that will be paid back, the Butch Lewis Act passed in the House and now waits in the Senate for action.  

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently proposed alternative legislation to the Butch-Lewis Act in response to the crisis faced by several multi-employer pension plans. As it stands, their proposal will not only injure the retirees and active participants it purports to help, it also will contribute to the collapse of all multi-employer pension plans. It would burden employers and workers in these plans to fund their own buyout instead of fiscally responsible, federally-funded loans that can assist plans, without a wholesale buyout that was given to industry and Wall Street after 2008. We are only asking for what is fair and equitable.

The USW Rapid Response program currently has an Action Call on this issue to fight back against the Grassley-Alexander alternative Senate Proposal to the Butch-Lewis Act for Multi-Employer Pension Plans. We will be sending that action to every USW paper local to take action. It is imperative that the Senate moves quickly on the proposal we support -- the Butch Lewis Act. Nearly 130 multi-employer pension plans are at risk of insolvency. That means devastating benefit cuts and financial insecurity for 1.3 million workers and retirees who earned pension benefits through a lifetime of hard work. We have a viable solution that will ensure retirees keep their hard-earned benefits and stabilize the multi-employer pension system overall. That solution is the Butch Lewis Act.

Action Instructions:

Please Reach Out to Your Senators. Ask them to support the Butch Lewis Act of 2019 (S. 2254).

Step 1: Dial our toll-free number to the U.S. Senate: 877-607-0785. (your zip code will direct you to your Senator)

Step 2: Tell the office who you are and where you are from.

Step 3: Ask the Senator to support S. 2254, the Butch Lewis Act.

Step 4: Make a second call to speak with your other Senator.

Did You Know?

Two-thirds of Americans are willing to pay more for everyday items made out of environmentally sustainable materials instead of single-use plastic, according to a survey from PBS NewsHour and Marist Poll.

Nearly a quarter of Americans — 24 percent — said they would pay 5 percent more to make coffee cups, cutlery and other daily use items that are typically tossed away after one use, more earth-friendly, while 22 percent of respondents said they would pay 2 percent more and another 20 percent of U.S. adults said they would pay 1-percent extra, in this poll.

Click here for more information: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/most-americans-would-pay-more-to-avoid-using-plastic-poll-says

Safety

OSHA Winter Weather Preparedness

OSHA has released 2019 winter weather preparedness resources to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities during winter storms. OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working together on a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather.

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces, and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable, workers should be trained to wear footwear that has good traction and insulation, and take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction.

Employers should consider options to avoid working on roofs or elevated heights and plan ahead for safe snow removal. They also must provide required fall protection and training when working on the roof or elevated heights, ensure ladders are used safely, use extreme caution when working near power lines, and prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion.

For more information, click here: https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/

Industry Update

Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital Released a Letter on Verso’s Sale of Two Mills to Pixelle Solutions

Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital, two private equity firms that have purchased significant common stock of Verso Corporation since 2017, released a joint letter on Verso’s recent sale of its specialty paper mills in Stevens Point, Wis., and Jay, Maine. The two firms criticize Verso for lack of transparency from the board of directors in disclosing the use of the proceeds from the sale of the specialty mills to Pixelle Specialty Solutions, and lack of industry expertise at the board level.

Atlas currently owns 2,330,683 shares of common stock of Verso Corporation, representing approximately 6.72% of the outstanding shares, and BW Coated owns 776,890 shares of common stock of the company, representing approximately 2.24% of the outstanding shares. Together, they own 3,107,573 shares (or approximately 8.96% of the outstanding shares) and, collectively, are among the largest stockholders of the company.

The USW represents about 1,200 members at the following Atlas Holdings/Blue Wolf sites: Twin Rivers Paper in Pine Bluff, Ark., Madawaska, Maine, Lyonsdale, N.Y., and Little Falls, N.Y.; Finch Paper in Glens Falls, N.Y.; French Paper in Niles, Mich., and Novipax in Paxinos, Pa. The firms have partnered on the acquisitions of Twin Rivers and Finch Paper, while Atlas Holdings owns Novipax and Soundview Paper. Both Atlas and Blue Wolf specialize in acquiring companies that are struggling due to various complex challenges like industry regulation and operational or financial distress.

Smurfit Kappa Launches Sustainable New Ekolife Toys for Christmas

Smurfit Kappa has launched a new range of imaginative and eco-friendly toys that are made completely from paper. The ekolife range provides shoppers with a sustainable alternative to the vast amounts of non-recyclable toys that flood the shops every year. Every product is made from cardboard so they are 100 percent recyclable, renewable and biodegradable, unlike most other toys.

Smurfit Kappa is a paper company that was formed, and is currently headquartered, in Ireland. The company has maintained a presence in the U.S. due to a series of mergers and divestitures over the years, including Jefferson Smurfit and Stone Container in the late 90’s, which became, at the time, Smurfit Stone. That company included many USW-represented facilities that are now owned by WestRock. While Smurfit Kappa’s ekolife toys are not available for purchase in the U.S., they serve as a good example of the paper industry’s sustainability, and are a unique application for a common product that USW Paperworkers make.

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.

 

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