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.
Right out of high school, Joe Reed didn’t want to go college so his father told him to get a job.
Even though Reed didn’t want to do shift work like his father, he found himself putting an application into the same place his father had worked for years: Scott Paper Co.
Eventually he worked his way up to machine tender, a high-prestige job that put him at the helm of a gigantic machine that turned pulp into paper.
He’s spent most of his time at machine No. 4, which is four-stories tall and produces napkins.
He’s still working at the mill loading trailers, even though the machine he ran has been shut down. He’s watched workers dismantle it and bring it out of the mill piece by piece. He’s been told it is on its way to Arlington for storage and eventually it will be shipped to China.
“A lot of people avoid walking through the paper mill,” he said. “It’s just depressing to walk through and see it being taking apart.”
His wife, Amy, worked at the mill for a decade, too. Both of their families have strong ties to Everett’s mills. The smells and sounds of industry were the backdrops of their childhoods.
She walked the picket lines with her father. She went to union meetings and company picnics. The paper mill was engraved in their lives. Everyone they knew worked at the mill.
When her father first moved to the area, he had a choice between Boeing and the mills and he chose mill work, which seemed more secure. As he put it, airplanes were a luxury and toilet paper was not.
“I’m really glad he’s not here to see this,” Amy Reed said of the closure.
They may have to go out of state to find work.
Starting fresh at Boeing won’t pay as well and Joe Reed wouldn’t have any seniority. They’d rather not leave the Northwest, but what choice do they have?