Glass Firm Shifts Operations

Judel Glass has entered into a joint venture with Jane Lew glassmaker Masterpiece Crystal, according to Judel President David Rifenburgh.

The agreement will put an end to the days when the glass furnaces burned at Judel.

"We have shut down the factory," Rifenburgh said. "Masterpiece is the better manufacturer. We hope to improve their distribution and marketing systems. We will form a third corporation, Judel Masterpiece."

In the transition, Judel skilled and unskilled workers have lost their jobs. Some are receiving low-wage slips; others were fired. Rifenburgh says he did not anticipate having to make these decisions.

"In forming the joint venture we tried to move two teams of six people to Masterpiece. If we could have moved those people, we could have had eight or nine jobs for unskilled people afterward," he said. "They refused to move."

Glass workers work in teams with skilled and unskilled laborers supporting each other's efforts.

Rifenburgh said he fired 21 skilled glassworkers because they refused the transfer.

"There is work down there," he said.

"The people who had a choice were fired. Those who had no choice were given low wage slips. If none of the skilled people come back, I will give permanent layoffs to the rest of the people."

Rifenburgh says five skilled workers went to Masterpiece and just did not like it. Others have cited the conditions for not taking the transfer. The two plants are also about 25 miles apart.

"Two of them were happy for about seven days," he said. "Then they decided not to go back."

Rifenburgh says he was shocked that so many workers refused the transfer without first trying it.

Judel Masterpiece is advertising at the local unemployment office for 14 skilled workers. Rifenburgh said he also has his foremen looking for glass workers who may want a job. The workers who decided not to go to Masterpiece can still get a job there by contacting the unemployment office, Rifenburgh said.

"I'm hoping to see these guys again," he said.

"Masterpiece's wage scale is extremely similar to ours. The big penalty would be vacation, but I'm sure they can negotiate that. I know the 20-something miles are a burden, but so is being out of work. Glass is their lives. Right now, I'm frustrated. We've got to find glass workers someplace."

Judel previously made glasses for high-end restaurants. Locally, the Wonder Bar in Clarksburg purchased their wares.

Masterpiece Crystal manufactures lead-free wine glasses, beer glasses, champagne flutes, wine accessories and other glasswares.

Formerly, Masterpiece and Judel were competitors in the marketplace.

600450 Glass Firm Shifts Operations
Date: 23 November 2005

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