No Work, Only Memories, In Ware

Mike McCarthy (Lisa Tobin/WBUR)

Mike McCarthy (Lisa Tobin/WBUR)

WARE, Mass. — Mike McCarthy was laid off 15 months ago from his job at American Disposables, one of the last remaining mills here. He lives about five minutes south, in Warren, with his fiancée.

They’re just making ends meet on her disability pay and the $180 he’s collecting in unemployment every week. But his unemployment runs out at the end of the month, and he has no idea how they’ll get by after that.

The thing is, aside from the time he was briefly rehired at American Disposables, it has been years since McCarthy found any real work. While the big retail stores such as Wal-Mart may be hiring, McCarthy is holding out for another factory job.

“I really miss getting up and going to work every day, I really do. It gives me great satisfaction to make a quality product here in the United States of America,” McCarthy says.

“It makes you feel good inside, I think, you know, rather than to sit around all day and collect, I mean, who wants to do that, really?

“I really miss getting up and going to work every day, I really do. It gives me great satisfaction to make a quality product here in the United States of America.”
– Mike McCarthy

“I wish there were more jobs around here, I really, really do.”

It didn’t use to be like this in Ware.

“I started working back in, I think it was, like, ’86 or ’87, and I remember one week I had three different jobs that week. I’m not kidding you. That’s how many jobs there were. You could quit a job, the next day you could go get a job, you could quit that job, and the next day you could go get another job at three different places.

“Now, you can’t do that. If you get a job, you better hold on to it. Because there’s like 2,000 people out there ready to take that position. No matter what it is.”

McCarthy says no one in Ware is hiring.

“Just in this neighborhood alone, like this entire street, I don’t think there’s maybe two people on this whole street that even have a job.

“And I think that’s what bothers me the most, is that, you know, I read about it in the paper every day, you know, how they say things are getting better, and I’m just thinking, getting better where? Because it’s not happening here,” he says.

McCarthy has had to give up a lot in recent years. He lost his health insurance. He couldn’t afford to keep his car, so when he needs to go job-hunting, he has to hitch a ride from his brother, who’s also out of work.

He enrolled at the University of Phoenix, an online school, hoping to get a college degree. But then his mom got sick and he had to drop out, so he lost his federal grant. Now he owes the school $2,000 and is still no closer to having a degree.

Mike calls himself fortunate not to have any children. Not because he doesn’t want them, but because he has no idea how he could afford to take care of them.

At this point, his best plan isn’t even to get a job he keeps. Just to get one he can hold onto long enough to be eligible for another round of unemployment.

“Who knows, I may go back to work next month, but then — how long will it last? Will they be able to keep me employed? I don’t know. What I’m hoping is maybe I’ll be able to go back long enough, if my unemployment does run out, so I can collect more. To at least try to keep myself intact for now.”

I ask him: “When’s the last time you bought something that you don’t really feel like you needed, that it was maybe a little bit of a luxury or a little bit of a stretch and what was it?”

He ponders the question.

“It was my engagement ring for my girl. I bought it last Christmas. So, we didn’t really need it, but I needed it. I needed it to give to her to show her how much I cared for her, because you know, that’s all you have is each other.

“I spent quite a bit of money. I’d like to have that money right now, but … but it was worth it. I think that’s how we get through it.”

Mike says part of the reason the engagement ring is so important is because they won’t actually be able to get married for a while. They just don’t have the money.

And he calls himself fortunate not to have any children. Not because he doesn’t want them, but because he has no idea how he could afford to take care of them.

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  • sandra lovett

    Unfortunately they ask you not to pay for news again but they pay for advertising to send you the message. In reality its the advertisers who pay for the news and its being disingenious to send you this message by paid advertising.

  • geffe

    The town of Ware voted for Scott Brown.
    Are the good people aware that some Republicans think they are lazy and that unemployment is unconstitutional?

    This is a sad story of the US and the real tragedy is this is going to spread.

    No bailouts are in the future for Ware.

  • Nick

    Yup !

    This is what our great nation has been doing for more than 30 years now. Selling off hard working, decent paying manufacturing jobs by the millions and replacing them with a few people in suits passing a piece of paper around and around on Wall Street where the last person holding it gets screwed.

    Weekends shopping in Ware’s mills were a treat for my family when I was youngster.

    I hear Saudi Arabia is building manufacturing facilities in their country now. They want a middle class. Guess I will have to brush up on my Arabic and head that way.

  • Paula Pluta

    Thank you for your broadcast on Ware. It brought back very fond memories of life in Ware in the late 40s, the 50s and early 60s. I was born there on this day 65 years ago. All of my family members lived in Ware, worked in retail on Main Street and in the mills. I have visited Ware at least once a month over the last forty or so years. What Ware needs now is a town government that is pro-active in locating and luring large high tech software or service companies such as a Fidelity, where the town’s population can earn a living wage with benefits. Casinos and Walmarts do not provide that. Get past the idea of restoring the mills for small businesses, art galleries, or antique stores. They require walk-in customers. Restore the mills for housing purposes. Build office park facilities on the outskirts of town for business purposes. By the way, Charlie Baker has no clue about what life is like for people in Ware. His responses to your questions proved that. He most likely never stepped a foot into the town, nor does he have any intention of doing so.

  • Charles

    Former mill towns exist throughout the inland New England region, as anyone who has driven the area can testify. The water power that played a part in their onetime prosperity is now irrelevant. Those closer to a larger metro area, major transportation corridor or tourist destination have better prospects, e.g. Pittsfield in the Berkshires, Waltham near Boston, the I-495 towns, Bellows Falls and Springfield, VT. Others, like Ware, may have to find a non-urban future, with all the attendant pain.

  • http://layoffsupportnetwork.com/lsn/ Javed Ikbal

    Some of the interviews made me mad and sad at the same time: how can USA, the greatest country on earth, be at this situation and have it’s good people living out of cars?

    There was one couple who said they had a friend who did not have any running water (couldn’t pay the bill) so she came to their house to shower and they cried a lot together.

    Another woman, herself jobless, is letting a jobless friend stay with her.

    The generosity of these good people in the face of adversity was amazing.

    Linked to the story from our website: http://layoffsupportnetwork.com/lsn/

    Listen to the program.

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