Another glass plant closes its doors

Houze Glass Co. in Point Marion, Fayette County, shut its doors Wednesday, a move that put 57 people out of work.

The 102-year-old business, situated on the bank of the Monongahela River, is the latest in a series of regional glassmaking operations to close, following Anchor Glass Container Corp. in South Connellsville, Fayette County, Glenshaw Glass in Shaler and the Lenox plant in Mt.Pleasant, Westmoreland County.

"Everyone knew it was coming ... business was slow," said Brenda Murray, vice president of Local 547 of the United Steelworkers union, which represents 44 workers at Houze Glass.

"It's certainly hard for everyone to have a nice Christmas. The union asked management (if) there was anything we could do and they said no. There are workers who have been here 40 years and it's going to be a big change for a lot of people," said Murray, a glass packager who had been employed at the company for more than 21 years.

Company officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"They (management) told us they owe the bank money and can't pay," Murray said. She also said the membership would meet after the holidays with International Steelworkers representatives to discuss separation packages and job retraining alternatives and to determine eligibility for benefits under the Trade Readjustment Act.

Murray said workers remain concerned about the status of the company's pension fund, which she said was underfunded by an estimated $200,000 or more.

The company was founded by Leon Houze, a Belgian immigrant, in 1902 as a glassware manufacturer, but later branched into silkscreen printing and decorating. The company's current product line centered around a large selection of ceramic mugs, along with a variety of glassware, plasticware, coolers, stainless steel and acrylic travel mugs.

Anchor Glass abruptly closed its glass bottle plant in South Connellsville on Nov. 4, a move that put about 300 people out of work. On Nov. 22, 109-year-old Glenshaw Glass Co. in Shaler closed its doors, putting 300 people out of work.

The Lenox Crystal manufacturing plant ceased operations in January 2002, a move that left 157 workers jobless. The Mt. Pleasant plant began operations in 1970 as the first glass factory built in the United States dedicated to the production of hand-blown, lead crystal stemware.

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