Monday Morning Minute: Nov. 25, 2019

Job Training 

Texarkana College Received $1 Million in Grants from the Texas Workforce Commission for Job Training at the Graphic Packaging Mill

USW Locals 1148 & 1149 – Graphic Packaging Mill – Texarkana, Texas – Earlier this month, Texarkana College received $1 million in grants from the Texas Workforce Commission for job training at Graphic Packaging International and equipment for automotive training. The $781,361 Skills Development Fund grant for Graphic Packaging will benefit workers in the Workforce Solutions Northeast Texas area and will be used to provide custom training to 375 new and incumbent workers in the manufacturing and warehouse industries. Training will include extrusion operations, warehouse operations, wood yard operations and mechanical maintenance technology.

According to Local Union President Mike Moore,  “Bargaining unit employees are involved in this: We have eight full-time  DLL (Department Learning Leaders) whose responsibilities are to track, schedule and document all training in their departments, as well as write all training material and step-by-step procedures for all jobs in department. We also do all the paperwork for the documentation of training hours that we send to a local college, which sends it in to the state. The state sends back the grant money based on number of hours our members have trained. It is not just new hires; it covers all training at all levels of a bargaining unit employee.

“The local also has a similar program on safety, which involves bargaining unit employees who work hand-in-hand with the Department Learning Leaders in each department. It takes about 35 years of service to get one of those jobs. All of these are filled under a Special Project Agreement negotiated about 20 years ago, and it gives the union control over who fills the jobs.”

Safety

USW Hazard Alert - Lundberg Flame Arresters: Complaint Filed in Federal Court Alleges New Safety Concerns

A complaint filed in federal court on October 31, 2019, makes serious allegations regarding Lundberg Flame Arresters. The plaintiff in this case, Packaging Corporation of America, Inc., (“PCA”) operates multiple facilities employing USW-represented employees. Because these Flame Arresters may be in use in USW-represented facilities, we are issuing this hazard alert to ensure that members are aware of these allegations.

The complaint alleges that the manufacturer of Lundberg Flame Arresters “had never tested or certified the Lundberg Flame Arresters to any applicable standards, either internally or externally with a third-party testing facility.” The complaint additionally alleges that in 2018, a Lundberg Flame Arrester failed offsite testing by an independent third-party facility, and that the flame arrester “presents a risk of explosion, injury, and death to anyone working near the Lundberg Systems.” Plaintiff PCA further alleges that in 2019 testing, an independent third-party testing facility found that the flame arresters actually accelerated the flame, “increasing the velocity and therefore magnitude of the explosion event.”

According to the complaint, Lundberg manufactures systems that evacuate non-condensable gases that may be combustible from the paper and pulp mill environment. These systems require specific safety devices to be installed to mitigate the risk of an explosion. In Lundberg Systems, Lundberg Flame Arresters are integrated in strategic locations and are designed to prevent a flame from spreading from one section of the system to a second section. In the complaint, the plaintiff states that flame arresters are meant to serve as a firewall to ensure that a flame does not lead to a fire event in the entire system or to an explosion. The complaint alleges that flame arresters are integral to the safety of the paper and pulp mill environment because an uncontrolled fire or explosion would put workers’ lives and property at risk, and that without functioning flame arresters, many of the systems at a paper and pulp mill would not meet applicable standards, would not pass government inspections, and would not be safe to operate.

To view the hazard alert in its entirety, cllick here or copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://www.usw.org/get-involved/hsande/resources/hazard-alerts/HazardAlert_Lundberg-Flame-Arresters-Complaint-Filed-in-Federal-Court-Alleges-New-Safety-Concerns.pdf.

USW Resolute Safety Conference

USW and Resolute held their annual safety conference last week. Pictured are Allen Whitworth, USW Local 692 from the Coosa Pines mill, and from the Calhoun mill, Mike Dawson, USW Local 899, and Ace Bishop, USW Local 790 safety chair. Each local discussed what they would like to stop, start and continue around safety in their mills, and are seen in the photo below reporting out to each other and corporate safety, operations and human resource leadership.

Industry Update

USW Local 1504 – Resolute Forest Products – Augusta, Ga.

Resolute Forest Products announced that it “indefinitely idled” its Augusta newsprint plant effective November 14. Workers had been off the job since early October when the plant was temporarily idled to offset declining demand for newsprint paper. The mill underwent intermittent shutdowns earlier in 2019.  District 9 is working on the effects bargaining affecting the membership and the USW paper sector leadership is looking for potential opportunities for the mill. 

Kimberly-Clark Appointing New Chairman of the Board

Kimberly-Clark Corporation announced that Chief Executive Officer Michael D. Hsu has been elected to the additional role of chairman of the company's board of directors effective January 1, 2020. Hsu succeeds Thomas J. Falk, who will retire from the company and the board at the end of the year after serving as chairman for the past 16 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 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