EVERETT, Wash. -- Hundreds of Kimberly Clark workers could find out any day whether the long time pulp and paper mill in Everett will stay open.
The Kimberly Clark mill is a huge fixture on the Everett waterfront. It currently employs 750 workers; about 450 of those jobs will be disappearing. The union is fighting to save the other 300 and keep working class men and women employed.
"The uncertainty of this has got our people so on edge that it’s difficult for them to be concentrating," said Dean Zevenberger, mill worker.
Kimberly Clark is in talks this week with Atlas Holdings. Atlas is interested in buying the mill, but would only have room for 300 employees to start. All of the remaining workers would have to re-apply for their positions.
Last week the union agreed to a new labor agreement with Atlas Holdings that would secure those jobs. The mill must be sold by the end of the year or it closes entirely, leaving generations of mill workers out of a job.
"They're dedicated, and to have to face the whole uncertainty of this situation that's out of their hands, that's not only tough, it’s beyond compare," said Josh Estes, President of Local 183.
“And those skills are, if not transferrable, certainly are the basis for many other technical opportunities that the region can use that type of trained workforce to build into," said Troy McClelland, Economic Alliance of Snohomish County.
McClelland said out of work mill employees could be retrained to fill other jobs, particularly in the aerospace industry. But keeping jobs at the mill is crucial to maintaining the county's competitive advantage and qualified workforce.
The union is obviously not thrilled that hundreds of workers will soon be unemployed and looking for a job in a tough economy. But Atlas indicates that if it buys the mill, it may be able to hire additional workers down the road.