Century-Old Paper Mill to Abruptly Close, Grown Men Seen Crying as 1,100 Set to Lose Jobs
President Harry Truman once reportedly quipped, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job. It’s a depression when you lose yours.”
If that’s true, a depression descended on Canton, North Carolina, on Monday afternoon, when workers at the local paper mill were called to a meeting, according to Smoky Mountain News.
There, company officials from Pactiv-Evergreen unexpectedly announced that the mill will be closing within the next few months after more than 100 years in operation, eliminating 1,100 jobs.
Aside from an audible gasp from the audience, the News reported, workers received the announcement in “stunned silence.”
Afterward, the news began to sink in.
Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers told WPDE-TV of the heartbreaking scene after the meeting.
“I was downtown and I saw grown men with tears in their eyes,” he told the TV station. “No one was prepared on this dark Monday to deal with that.”
The mill, he said, is one of the largest employers in Haywood County.
Smathers “likened the closure to taking a piece of the town’s soul,” WPDE reported.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper agreed. “This is a shocking, cruel blow to families who have depended for years on wages and business from Canton Mills,” he wrote in a Twitter post the next day.
This is a shocking, cruel blow to families who have depended for years on wages and business from Canton Mills. I talked with Mayor Smathers and my administration is all in to help find solutions and create new opportunities for Western NC. – RC https://t.co/XY7A03wcXZ
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) March 7, 2023
Company leaders, including Byron Racki, president of beverage merchandising, explained the decision was “almost exclusively a reflection of the market conditions,” the News reported.
In other words, the economy has been really lousy.
“Really, since November [or] December, markets have gone to hell, for lack of a better way of saying that,” Racki told the assembled workers. “It’s not just us, it’s everybody.”
He said customers nationwide seem to be tightening their belts and trimming extras, like fast food and pricey drive-thru coffee — and that, in turn, has caused a huge drop in paper product sales.
“It’s just for lack of demand. People just aren’t printing things,” he said.
What’s worse, it turns out that it’s not just the Canton paper mill that’s on the chopping block.
A Pactive Evergreen statement released after Monday’s meeting said it is closing another facility in Olmstead Falls, Ohio, in the coming months, bringing the total number of jobs eliminated this time around to 1,300.
“The Company also continues to explore strategic alternatives for its Pine Bluff, Arkansas mill and Waynesville, North Carolina facility,” according to the statement.
Any time a company mentions “exploring strategic alternatives” regarding your workplace in the same breath as announcing two plant closures, you’d be wise to start updating your resume.
The Biden administration has been telling us, again and again, how great the economy is doing and how well its plan is working.
And yet, companies both large and small continue to announce massive layoffs “as they recalibrate head counts and tighten belts amid concerns about a slowing economy,” The Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Those companies “recalibrating head counts” include Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Alphabet (owner of Google), Microsoft, Dow and 3M, according to the Journal. Mondo reported more companies announcing layoffs in 2023, including Twitter, Disney, Zoom, Dell and PayPal.
It’s hard to reconcile all these reports of downsizing with government statements assuring us that jobs are being added all the time.
Maybe they’ve just managed to redefine the terms “job” and “added” the way they’ve redefined the meaning of the words “alien,” “bipartisan” and even “sex.”
A few decades after Harry Truman’s pronouncement about depressions vs. recessions, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan borrowed that catchy saying and embellished it:
“Recession,” he chuckled, “is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”
If they were really smart, one of the conservatives currently running for president in 2024 would dust off that adage and substitute Joe Biden’s name for Jimmy Carter’s.
Because until the man currently occupying the Oval Office loses his job, America’s prospects — economic and otherwise — are depressingly bleak.
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