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Valley News Dispatch

Pittsburgh Glass Works employees seeking retraining, other benefits as plant shutdown nears

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, 9:10 p.m.
The  Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer, owned by Mexico-based glass maker Vitro.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer, owned by Mexico-based glass maker Vitro.

Employees from East Deer's Pittsburgh Glass Works are seeking federal help to weather upcoming worker layoffs because half of their automotive glass manufacturing plant's production is moving to Mexico.

About 200 employees are expected to be laid off, with the first wave hitting in late March and then a full plant closure in June.

The United Steelworkers, which represents the workers, filed a petition Dec. 13 with the U.S. Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA), claiming the workers were adversely affected by foreign trade. Under TAA, laid-off workers can receive extended unemployment compensation, job retraining and allowances for relocation expenses, in addition to state benefits.

It's unknown whether the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration will make a decision on whether PGW workers are eligible before they are laid off.

Lenore Uddyback-Fortson, a Department of Labor spokeswoman, said she could not comment on the time line of the decision.

However, she did say the average investigation time for a TAA petition is 110 days, which is longer than the two months since the United Steelworkers filed the petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance.

Pittsburgh Glass Works is a division of Mexico-based Vitro, which agreed in late 2016 to purchase the 133-year-old original glass factory of Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

Although located in East Deer, the site is known as the Creighton plant and is one of Vitro's eight automotive glass manufacturing plants in the United States.

Initially, the company said it would keep the Creighton plant and workers, but it announced last year it would shutter the plant and lay off about 200 employees.

PGW CEO and President Joe Stas said the Creighton plant faced a combination of challenges: The aging facility couldn't keep up with increasing technological demands. And it had the capacity to produce 2 million more units per year than the market demands.

Now, half of the production performed at Creighton will move to Mexico, said Jennifer Eck, director of human resources with Pittsburgh Glass Works.

Vitro will absorb Creighton's production with the current workforce in Mexico, Eck said in an email.

There would be no job creation at the Mexico facility related to the closure of Creighton, she added.

Vitro is helping the workers' case to receive TAA benefits, Eck said.

“We are hopeful for an approval very soon,” she said.

The company has been meeting with employees, the governor's Rapid Response team and other local employers and unions, she added.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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