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300 out of work at glass factory

| Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004

Workers at 109-year-old Glenshaw Glass Co. in Shaler on Monday held out faint hope that a buyer could still be found to keep the plant operating -- even as the last glass bottles rolled off the production lines and workers prepared to drain the plant's furnaces of molten glass and shut off their supply of natural gas.

The plant closing put 300 people out of work just before the holidays, leaving several local materials suppliers without one of their biggest customers, and customers like Pittsburgh Brewing Co. and D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, searching for new bottle suppliers.

Meridian Group, the local management consultant that took control of the plant Nov. 8 on behalf of the company's largest creditor, PNC Financial Services Group, told employees Friday the plant would close.

Another regional bottle-making plant, Anchor Glass Container Corp. in Connellsville, Fayette County, shut down abruptly Nov. 4, leaving about 300 workers without a job.

Yesterday, workers carried signs and received honks of support from passing motorists on Route 8 outside the Glenshaw Glass plant. Several denounced PNC for not keeping the plant operating 30 days longer while Meridian President Margaret Good worked to find a buyer.

One sign indicated PNC stands for "Plant Now Closing."

The plant's fate wasn't helped by Glenshaw's inability to obtain a settlement from its insurance company to cover damages from the Sept. 17 floods, which former owner John Ghaznavi had pegged at $27 million.

PNC said in a statement that receivership was the only option because of the plant's "overwhelming losses." .... "This is the culmination of an extremely unfortunate series of events, most notably the devastating flood and fire damage in the last two months, as well as a shrinking market in the glass business."

One of the pickets, Geno Stello, who worked on electrical systems at Glenshaw for the past 10 years, said the plant's work force could do something few other glass bottle makers could -- begin changing over equipment to make a new type of bottle at 7 a.m., and have quality product rolling out the door by noon.

"We get a lot of the small jobs nobody else will take," said Stello, of West Deer.

Now, only about 44 employees will continue working this week to ensure the last two glass tanks are drained completely -- providing the best possible chance for the furnaces to restart if an investor is found willing to revive the company.

Good has said that up to five potential investors have been examining the plant in recent weeks.

But Lou Brudnock, president of Local 134 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union, said yesterday he is aware of only one remaining group of local investors that is still considering restarting its furnaces.

Union leaders made a final attempt to keep the furnaces from being shut down yesterday morning in Allegheny Common Pleas Court, but Judge Robert Horgos denied the request, indicating the plant's losses were too high, according to Brudnock.

Glenshaw's suppliers and customers are searching for answers, too.

One of Glenshaw's many suppliers who has met with Good recently about receiving payment is Jim Dlubak, owner of Dlubak Glass in Natrona Heights, a supplier of "cullet" or recycled glass to Glenshaw.

He said that Glenshaw, together with the Anchor closing, will force him to "reposition what I'm doing with my business." ... "We've supplied them since 1932. We've been up and down with them through the years," he said.

Pittsburgh Brewing co-chairman Joseph Piccirilli said in a statement that his company has a "few months" supply of bottles from Glenshaw remaining for its Iron City beer and other products.

"We are researching other possibilities for companies to take over, but we don't want to jump to a new supplier too quickly until we see what ultimately happens with Glenshaw."

He said the company's plans to continue to market its recently introduced aluminum bottles for Iron City beer will not impact its use of glass bottles.

David Casinelli, chief operating officer at the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville, said his company gave Glenshaw as much business as it could.

"We are very disappointed," he said. "The glass industry is consolidating, which makes it much more difficult to have a dependable source of supply."

"We don't get the time and attention the Budweisers and Millers can control. When those guys are buying millions and millions of bottles, how are Pittsburgh Brewing, or Yuengling or Straub (an Elk County brewery) going to get any preference?"

Casinelli said Yuengling will be down to one bottle supplier -- Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc., a subsidiary of Toledo, Ohio-based Owens-Illinois Inc., which acquired the Canadian plants of Consumers Packaging after Ghaznavi's ouster.

The Brockway plant, in Jefferson County, was also the winner last year when Belgian brewing giant Interbrew Sa, parent of Latrobe Brewing -- maker of Rolling Rock beer -- shifted its production there from Anchor's Connellsville plant.

Casinelli said Yuengling would welcome doing business with Glenshaw again if new investors are found, but said he doesn't want to get "caught in a trap where we don't have other sources at our disposal."

"Given our preference, we'd rather have two sources (for bottles) instead of one," he said.

Pat Crossey, of Carnegie, who left the Brockway plant about six months ago to work at Glenshaw, said at yesterday's rally that he is regretting his decision.

"This is a good plant with good people," he said.

Geno Stello is hoping for a quick resolution of the plant's ultimate fate.

"We need to get on with the next chapter of our lives," he said.

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