By Debra Smith Herald Writer
In this series, we’re telling the stories of what the Kimberly-Clark mill closure means for workers and for Everett, which has been defined by mills for more than a century.
Joanne Cooper was raised in a Scott Paper Co., household, the daughter of a machine tender.
Her father, Ron Hughley, died in 2004. He worked at the mills for more than 40 years.
“My dad was a jokester,” she said. “He used to say, ‘We work our arses off to keep yours clean.’”
As a child, she remembers the company Christmas program at the Everett Civic Auditorium, complete with Santa, elves and a present with her name on it afterward.
Her family connection eventually landed her work there during college. When a planned career in forestry didn’t work out, she found herself employed there, too.
Like many, she held a variety of jobs, including working with chemicals to make paper towels stronger and more absorbent.
By the end, she was helping workers in the paper mill get safety and job training.
She liked working with men, but she noted that even today the mills remain male-dominated. In order to be successful, the few women who worked on that side of the business had to adapt.
“It was challenging,” she said. “It’s not a woman’s world down there.”
For her, the closure of the mills is sad. She doesn’t understand how a company could shut down a mill that’s been profitable for decades.
“It made money when my father was a machine tender until the day we shut it down,” she said.
Now, Cooper is looking toward the future. She thinks she’ll likely go back to school.