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Shoe Manufacturing Company To Lay Off Half of Workers

August 21, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ Anna Kapinos has worked for B-W Footwear Inc. since she was 16. Sixty-two years on, she’s been given her notice.

The shoe manufacturing plant, the latest casualty of New England’s protracted economic downturn, is laying off half of its 200 employees.

″It’s kind of hard,″ said the 78-year-old woman, who joined the company in 1930, the year it was founded in Webster. ″Everybody gets along fine. After being here all those years, everybody feels like it’s home to them.″

The family business cannot compete with cheap labor overseas, said its chief operations officer, Lawrence Siff. He gave 100 workers their 60-day notice Wednesday.

″It’s been awful,″ said Siff, whose grandfather started the company. ″We have a number of people who have been here for many, many years.″

Recent losses and layoffs in Massachusetts’ relatively new high-tech industries have made headlines.

Just this week, Wang Laboratories Inc. said it had filed for bankruptcy reorganization, a move that will cost 1,500 layoffs in Massachusetts. Digital Equipment Corp. also plans layoffs in the thousands.

But the persistent drain on small- and medium-sized companies has also added to the state’s manufacturing losses, said Anthony Ferrara, regional commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Boston.

New England lost a total of 44,000 manufacturing jobs between June 1991 and June of this year - 25,000 of them were in Massachusetts.

″That’s one of the problems with this recession is that it’s been so diffused throughout the economy,″ Ferrara said. ″It’s from all industries, all size groups.

″It would take many many years of expansion to replace all the jobs we’ve lost,″ Ferrara said. ″We have lost over half a million jobs in New England in the past three years, and that’s more than 50 percent of the jobs we created in the boom time of the 80s.″

Massachusetts plunged into a recession about 3 1/2 years ago.

Siff said shoe workers in China earn an average of 23 cents an hour, and workers in the Dominican Republic earn about 50 cents an hour. With benefits, labor on shoes in the United States costs about $9 an hour, Siff said.

He also faults the federal government for his company’s troubles.

″We operate in plants overseas where, if they have any problems, they work with the government and the government works much more closely with industry,″ he said.

″I think if the government would help a little bit it would be good,″ echoed Kapinos. ″It’s hard because everybody needs to work.″

B-W Footwear makes men’s casual and dress shoes, as well as rubber and canvas shoes for women. The company will be scaling back from five lines of shoes to two and concentrating on the import side of its business, Siff said.

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