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Monaca braces for potential Anchor Hocking plant closing

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
 

Beaver Valley residents have seen this episode before.

Anchor Hocking glassware plant in Monaca and its union workers are fighting over concessions that management says are needed to help keep it in business. Anchor Hocking's parent has a July 15 deadline from creditors to come up with a plan to resolve a financial crunch.

It's a shame that the plant might have to close, residents said. But nothing new. Not here, where once-thriving towns up and down the valley are shells of their storied pasts.

“This has happened since time immemorial,” said Tom Roush, 62, who smoked a cigar on Wednesday inside King Beaver Cigars on Pennsylvania Avenue. “It happens. It's the way of life, and it always has been.”

Losing the plant in Monaca would be significant: 450 people work there, and the plant is a key source of revenue for the borough.

Roush, an electrician, worked 25 years for Horsehead Holding Corp.'s zinc smelter in nearby Center and Potter — until it shut down operations in May. More than 500 people lost their jobs.

But Roush holds no grudges.

“They made a business decision; anyone who doesn't understand that needs their head examined,” he said. “I'm a union guy; I'd fight for everything. But it was a business relationship. You worked and they paid you, and they paid better than most, so what did they owe anyone?”

Officials with Anchor Hocking owner EveryWare Global Inc. could not be reached. The company has notified the state and its workers that it could close within a two-week period beginning Aug. 11.

Wayne Ranick, a spokesman for United Steelworkers, declined to comment on ongoing negotiations.

Anchor Hocking runs a second plant, in Lancaster, Ohio, where workers might soon return to work after accepting concessions.

The Monaca union rejected the concessions. Officials said Anchor Hocking is demanding a 7 percent pay cut, among other concessions.

Borough Manager Mario Leone said he understands residents' aloofness when it comes to news of a potential shutdown. But losing Anchor Hocking, located in the middle of the borough and part of the community for 100 years, would hurt.

The plant runs up monthly bills of $18,000 to $20,000 for water and sewage services, each, he said. Factor in lost taxes, he said, and the plant closure could cost the city about 15 percent of its annual 1 million budget.

“Everybody is hoping a deal will be worked out,” Leone said. “We don't want that void, especially since it's literally right in the middle of town.”

The plant has been partially idle since mid-May, when the company furloughed workers to conserve cash. A few pickup trucks were parked inside the plant's grounds, but a man who walked through the gates said he did not know if anyone else was working.

Leone said speculation is rampant, especially since company and union officials won't speak publicly.

“We don't really know much about it,” said John Dalton, who with his wife, Angel, runs a cafe a few doors from the plant entrance. “All I know is a friend just got a job there and he came back three days later and said the plant was shut down.”

While residents would hurt for friends and family who lose their jobs, Leone said the town remains optimistic, even if negotiations fail. Such hope is largely pinned to Royal Dutch Shell's decision to build a petrochemical plant on land formerly owned by Horsehead Holding.

“With the Marcellus shale, there's not that urgency, that panic, because you see that rainbow and the pot of the gold at the other end,” Leone said. “I'm really hoping the plant will stay a glassmaking plant, but we will come out of it strong.”

Back at King Beaver's, shop manager Vince Orend recalled the old days when plants lined the shores of the Ohio and employed tens of thousands of workers.

“I went through Ambridge last night,” he said. “Back then, everybody was making good money. Everybody. There would be so many people in Ambridge, you could never find a place to park. Then the plants all closed, and the small places, the foundries and machine shops that supported those places, they all closed. ... Now it's a ghost town.”

“This is a ghost valley,” Roush added. “People have been kicked in the teeth around here so much, now it's just, ‘There's another mill closing.' I don't see it getting any better around here.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


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