PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Hundreds of New Jersey workers were left without jobs after a massive fire tore through the Marcal paper mill in Elmwood Park last week.
Some were close to retirement, others just beginning careers, but all of them are ready to get back to work.
Now, a unique job fair may be their ultimate lifeline.
“Are you guys hiring?”
That’s a daunting question 59-year-old Milan Knezevic never thought he would have to ask again.
But Knezevic also never thought the place he worked for almost 40 years would burn down – leaving him and his two brothers, who also worked there, unemployed.
“End of the American dream. Life isn’t going to be the same anymore,” the 59-year-old said.
Working at the Marcal paper mill was their first jobs in America after immigrating from Croatia.
“I was there every day. That was my future, my life, my everything was there,” Marko Knezevic said.
While one brother stayed home, the other two joined nearly 500 former Marcal employees at a special job fair at Bergen Community College.
A hundred employers are looking to get these men and women back on their feet. It’s been tough for many, since they’ve gone without pay for more than a week.
One father is still putting his daughter through college, and now has no job.
“You have to watch what you’re spending,” Paul Vida explained.
It’s just an introduction for most of these workers, but some are getting a job on the spot.
“The Marcal employees are in a high demand industry, manufacturing, New Jersey is one of the few states where manufacturing jobs are going up every year,” New Jersey labor commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
One human resource rep is looking to hire 29 people.
“You have very little learning curb, that you can train them and have an employee ready in a few weeks,” Diony Shaikh of Arrow Fastener explained.
Luckily for employers, these workers are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work.
There is still no word if the paper factory will ever re-open in Elmwood Park.