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Employment at the Shasta Mill provided at one time, a comfortable reliable middle class income which afforded many employees an opportunity to either invest in a new home, purchase a nice vehicle and or send their children on to college.
This level of compensation also provided many employees and or their families the financial ability to afford to travel on vacation to numerous other regions both here in the U.S., as well as abroad to many other areas of the world. Employees were also able to pursue many various forms of hobbies.
The Shasta Mill was a 24 hour-7 day a week operation. The majority of salary and clerical support staff worked primarily day shift, five days each week. Those employees who performed shift work at Shasta actually in essence had two sets of family, one at home and one at the mill.
Due to the various shifts worked, plus overtime in which one might work in order to fill a vacancy to cover for either an absence or for floating holidays, one could quickly find themselves spending more time down at the mill, than at home with their loved ones and families. Shift work could thus, also put a strain on a marriage and family life in general, so the mill had a reputation for a high rate of divorce.
And for some employees, working all of these unusual shift patterns was also difficult and demanding on them as an individual. However, after obtaining enough mill seniority, employees could then sometimes transfer onto a straight day job once a position became available.
Many workers and their shift supervisors did adapt to these rotating shift schedules, thus staying on and putting in several decades of continuous service at the Shasta Mill.
However, even with these issues and other challenges associated with working around the clock, the mill promoted many positive employee and family oriented activities throughout the year, including golf tournaments, fishing derbies and the annual Shasta Mill employees' Children's Christmas Party (photo right).
Employees also volunteered their time, talent and effort during off-work hours in both constructing and participating on the company's decorated mill float during the Redding Rodeo Week parade in downtown Redding of May each year (upper left photo).
Prior to the mill going down, the Shasta pulp and paper complex had also been a major financial sponsor of the annual Redding Air Show performed out at the Redding Municipal Airport. The mill's participation in this annual event also included complimentary food and drinks at the company's 'flight-line' V.I.P. tent reserved for both employees and or their families.
The mill was also a supporter of the annual Kool April Nites car show which is held in Redding during the month of April each year.
The mill also sponsored various local area little league teams and donated paper to many organizations in the north state.
The pulp and paper operation also conducted an annual United Way pledge drive, whereby the mill employees could contribute by donating a percentage of their weekly paychecks to this organization.
These annual United Way fundraising efforts were so successful that the Shasta Mill received the prestigious Five Year United Way golden award for the mill's generous, continuous contributions to both this non-profit agency and the local community.
The mill also contributed financially to many other non-profit groups such as the local Y.M.C.A. and other charitable organizations throughout Shasta County.
The abrupt closing in August of 2001, came as both a blunt surprise and major disappointment to the majority of the employees working there. The employees had made many cost saving sacrifices over the years in order to keep the operation efficient. When the mill went down, there were roughly over 400 employees put out of work, including supervisors and other salary support staff.
The plant closing also affected other businesses in the area such as local suppliers, trucking firms and retail businesses which benefited from mill workers and or their families shopping there.
The mill had a multi-million dollar annual payroll when it closed, this not taking into account other lost revenues from various jobs eliminated at local suppliers and retail firms which were also affected by the plant closure. The mill's presence contributed greatly to the local area's economy.
The two reported issues which brought the Shasta Mill down were:
 - The escalating high energy costs associated to operate the mill just prior to the mill closure. The Shasta Mill saw it's monthly utility bills triple in cost in the period just prior to August 2001. This may have later been attributed to the 2000/2001 California energy debacle in which both electricity deliveries and natural gas rates were alleged of being manipulated, along with numerous reports of associated alleged energy price 'fixing' within the state on account of recent energy deregulation.
 - The mill was no longer able to compete effectively in the marketplace with paper being imported (dumped) into the United States from overseas.
Other factors which may have also contributed to the mill's demise were the smaller width of the mill's two paper machines (newer machines are of much wider width which permits more paper production or output); the decision to transfer the majority of the C1S label orders off of the Shasta No. 1 paper machine and sending them to Texas for manufacturing.
A meeting was quickly held at the Anderson V.F.W. Hall for the ex-mill workers after they had been instructed to leave the mill (left and right photos). During the meeting, emotions ran high and became 'heated' at times. Various representatives were also in attendance at the meeting to assist the mill workers in making the transition from millwork to another career.
For many of the employees, they were now nearing the age of retirement, so obtaining another job which paid the same in wages and benefits was nearly impossible to find in the local area.
The workers and supervisors did not receive any advance warning from the company that the plant was to permanently close. The employees also did not receive sixty days worth of pay as promised under the federal plant closure W.A.R.N. act due to non-notification that the mill was to close.
Shortly after the plant closed, bargaining unit employees received envelopes in the mail from their local union which contained a union withdrawal card of separation, as well as a brief note wishing each individual good fortune in the future.
View the letter from the local union (PDF file format)
While employees did receive a final paycheck, they did not receive compensation for any unused vacation time nor floating holidays not taken. Employees quickly filed claims through the local Department of Industrial Relations-State Labor Commission field office. However just prior to the date of the hearing, the institution which owned the mill filed for bankruptcy.
Once the bankruptcy papers had been filed, agencies previously representing the former mill employees in attempting to recover owed assets were now no longer legally obligated to. They thus in turn immediately 'washed their hands' of the former mill employees' plight.
View the notice from the Redding DIR field office (PDF file format)
There was a brief attempt to find a buyer for the closed mill (a group called the Shasta Paper Employee Buyout Association was formed to explore options). However just a few months later in May of 2002, the mill equipment was put up for auction.
The photo to the left depicts the auctioneers auctioning off the first item, which was a large anvil from the mill's maintenance shop. The item sold at auction for $500. The photo to the right depicts the mill forklifts and roll clamp-trucks lined up for auction in the empty shipping warehouse.
Most of the mill equipment auctioned off did not sell for much. The Jagenberg Precision Sheeter which when installed came with a price tag of over 10 million dollars, sold at auction for just eighty thousand dollars.
Once the mill's pulp and papermaking equipment were auctioned off, the mill's fate was then sealed. Around this same period, the mill's environmental operating permits/credits were also sold off.
In May of 2004, the mill properties were then sold off at auction on the Shasta County Courthouse steps (left photo). All the proceeds from the auctions went elsewhere. Remaining carton, roll and skid paper inventories staged in the mill warehouses were also sold off shortly after the mill closed. Unbeknownst to many, was that the mill had incurred a large amount of debt when it closed.
Along with losing their jobs, to date, the former employees have never been made whole for the monetary amounts still owed them from either their accrued unused vacation time and or floating holiday time earned. Local management and salary staff were also owed compensation.
Nor to date, was there ever any compensation paid out under the terms and conditions of the federal W.A.R.N. act to the affected former mill employees. For the former workforce at Shasta, the intent of this important piece of federal legislation which was passed in the first place to protect employees, wasn't worth the paper on which it was printed on.
One former mill worker recently reflected upon the mill's abrupt closure back in 2001. In doing so, he also expressed his feelings about losing his job and not being made whole and thus fairly compensated for the monies still owed the employees ever since that period. He also noted the lack of communications regarding such. He then summed up all those thoughts by saying just these three simple words, "We got screwed!"
Update: In November of 2013, some twelve years after the mill's closure, former bargaining unit employees began to receive a portion of monies owed as part of the mill bankruptcy settlement.
Federal TAA retraining funds (which were designed to help assist the displaced workforce make the transition because of job loss caused by import trade), were also not approved and did not become available to the Shasta Mill workforce until July of 2002, nearly a year after the mill had closed.
By then, the vast majority of former Shasta Mill employees did not take advantage of these federal benefits in which they were entitled to, as they had already made prior employment arrangements. In other words, for most of the ex-mill workers, they had either already long exhausted their unemployment benefits, or for some, had already found another job before the closed mill finally became TAA certified.
According to one local job training agency staff member, those ex-mill workers wishing to apply for such federal re-training financial aid, would have to of "jumped through hoops" in order to have accessed and utilized those federal training benefits anyway.
Some local funding from area employment training resource agencies was made available to some former mill workers for retraining purposes.
Vendors supplying the mill with both materials and services were also owed funds when the mill went down. The paperworker's union (P.A.C.E.) which once represented the Shasta Mill bargaining-unit employees has since been absorbed into the United Steel Worker's Union (U.S.W.). The industry terms pulp and paper are no longer noted in the name of the largest union representing pulp and paper workers here in the United States.
Many domestic pulp and paper mills are still struggling economically just to stay open ( click open the mill closure map link toward the bottom of this page in order to examine the current adverse national impact).
The Shasta Mill stands today as a visual monument or reminder if you will, of America's past industrial strength. It's two paper machines have long since been dismantled and relocated elsewhere.
The No.1 paper machine was shipped via container by ship over to Thailand. There it was reassembled to make paper once again over in Asia, perhaps to be exported back here to the United States. The No.2 paper machine has been since relocated to Santa Fe Springs, California and rebuilt.
Back at the mill, during inclement winter weather, rain water began to find its way through various spots in the roof. Not long after the auction, light could be seen penetrating through from up above, which suggested that the main roof may have needed a few repairs or patches. Wind now blows through various openings and darkness fills the once illuminated passage ways.
Pigeons now became the new inhabitants inside the mill, setting up roosts high above, perching themselves upon various beams and rafters throughout the former paper mill complex. Within the eerie quiet confines of the main paper machine buildings, these birds would occasionally flutter about here and there, while making cooing sounds up in the high ceilings. Their droppings littered the deserted machine floor down below.
Shortly after the mill went down, a group of vultures set up "shop" on top of the digester unit out in the pulp mill. From their tall vantage point, these buzzards have kept watch over the operation and can see for miles around.
Many of the motor control center (MCC) rooms inside the mill complex have been rendered completely useless after the auction, as they were destroyed while salvager's recovered the precious scrap copper from their complex electrical hardware assemblies.
The majority of the mill's extensive electrical conduit system has also been stripped bare as well, of the valuable copper conductor wires which were once housed inside.
The main mill complex itself, now sits isolated, as the properties were divided up at the last auction. A lone co-generation unit (right photo) which at one time used to be a part of the mill, still produces electricity on-site to sell out on the "grid".
Visitors are no longer now permitted to come into the mill site due to legal liability issues. Over time, the elements are slowly beginning to take their toll on the last remaining equipment and structures. It is unknown at this time what repairs are being made to the facility since visitors are no longer permitted to walk through the mill. Also, the future plans for the mill property are unknown.
Mills and other domestic manufacturing operations across the United States are closing at an alarming rate. What is being done at the local, state and or national level to help assist remaining U.S. domestic industries, in order to thus minimize another devastating economic loss to a community from a potential plant closure?
Remember: Free trade really isn't that free. It costs some Americans their jobs!
Click here to view the P.P.R.C. 2011 U.S. domestic Pulp & Paper Mill Closure Map