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.
Ray Jones was one of those kids that wasn’t serious about high school.
He graduated from Cascade High School in Everett, and after goofing around a bit, decided to get work at the Scott Paper Co. That was in 1976.
He started out re-sorting packages of pastel toilet tissue into boxes — back then it came in yellow, blue, pink, green and white. Each box got a few rolls of each.
That was fine until he got married.
“That was a wake-up call for me,” he said. “I realized I didn’t want to do work shift work the rest of my life.”
He took advantage of Scott’s educational reimbursement program and went to college.
For six straight years he worked full-time at night and attended school full-time during the day.
By the end, the guy who didn’t care much for high school had a master’s in business administration.
The company promoted him to one of the manager positions and he made the awkward transition of becoming the boss of his peers.
During his more than three decades at the mill, he saw it become a safer place to work. He saw the mill become more automated and how that shrank the number of jobs. He saw the elimination of shift supervision. He saw what had been a family-orientated company become more professionalized.
As a kid, the Scott Paper Co. would rent out the Everett Civic Auditorium and throw a big party around the holidays. He remembers circus acts and then Santa distributing gifts back stage afterward.
Later, the gifts were handed out from the back of a truck behind the mill. Later still, everyone got a box of candy. By the end, the company sent out electronic seasons greetings.
A lot of that already was happening before Kimberly-Clark took over, just part of the march of change and the competitive pressure to reduce costs.
Jones planned to work through mid-April, helping his colleagues find new careers. The company paid for him and others to help their peers transition into other careers.
Some are getting jobs at Boeing. Others are relocating to other parts of the country to work at pulp-and-paper mills, including some owned by Kimberly Clark. Some aren’t going back to work at all.
“I feel blessed,” he said. “The company has been good to me. Outside of the disappointment of this closure, I have no complaints.”
As for his own path, he hopes it stays here. He’s applied for work but it’s not easy fighting “the stigma of age.”
“It’s disappointing,” he said of the closure. “Being on the inside — it’s tough right now for the people who are still down here. They are grateful for the few months of work.”
Some are still making paper towels. But a lot of the activity is preparing the mill for closure — a reminder of what’s been lost.