Peggy Shultz, president of Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Local 136, said union members found out at a meeting at the South Connellsville Fire Hall what's in store for them under the final severance plan worked out between the company and the union.
The 312 former Anchor Glass Corp. employees learned Nov. 4 that the glassmaker was closing permanently, putting them out of jobs. Many of the employees had been with the company for 15 years or more.
Shultz said most of the items covered Monday were already agreed on in the contract.
"I think that we basically got a good deal, but there are always some people who don't benefit from it," said Shultz. "I have to say, for the most part, I think that most people did benefit from it, though."
Shultz said most of the older workers will be OK for a while. She added that workers who are old enough to take the pension, those age 55 and had 30 years or more of service by July 31, 2002, are going to benefit the most.
"Some of the others, me included, who are in our 50s are not going to do as well, because if we decide to retire we will receive a reduced pension," said Shultz. "On the other hand, we will also be able to get insurance at a reduced rate under the retirees trust."
Shultz stressed the fact that the decision to retire at a reduced rate is totally up to the union members, because only they know their financial situation.
"We can't tell them what to do," she said. "Each and every worker will have to make up their own mind on what they are going to do. If they let their pension sit, they will get more at retirement age, obviously. If they take their retirement early (at age 55) they will lose one-half of 1 percent every month that they are under 65 years of age."
Shultz said she can take her pension at 55, but she would receive only $250 to $300 a month, not enough to live on.
"If the plant would have continued to operate and I would have retired in 21/2 years at age 55 with 33 years of service, I would have received over $1,000 a month," said Shultz. "Now, even if I wait until I'm 65, I am only going to get about $776 a month, and that's a far cry from $1,000. No matter what, we got hurt."
Many of the laid off glass plant workers attended a career training day, co-sponsored by West Virginia Career Institute and All-State Career Commercial Driver Training, at the South Connellsville social hall.
And, according to Amanda Rugg, West Virginia Career Institute admission representative, the four-hour job fair drew a nice crowd.
Rugg said most of the 312 former workers came out on Monday despite the chillier temperatures and the drizzling rain.
"These people are used to getting up and going to work," said Rugg. "They were here right at 10 a.m. to talk with the different representatives who were here to help them with future employment options."
Rugg said many of the workers drank coffee, ate doughnuts and sat around and talked with old friends and former coworkers. She also said that they are eager to get back to work.
Jeffrey Seabury from the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation said he talked to a few former employees who might be able to benefit from his program.
"We are a state agency that provides services to help people with disabilities prepare for, start and maintain employment," said Seabury. "Vocational rehabilitation is one of the oldest programs in which state funds are matched with federal funds."
In addition to All-State Career School and the West Virginia Career Institute, Laurel Business Institute, Douglas Education Center, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, the Education and Technology Institute of Greensburg and Westmoreland County Community College Truck Driver Training were all present to help the former workers make a decision on what type of education they might like to pursue.
Shultz and local union president Charlie Tressler said the event was good, but they wished that there had been employers there who could have offered the former Anchor workers jobs.