Isherwood, 49, of Saxonburg, might have punched out for the last time today as the last bottles produced by the 109-year old company along Route 8 in Shaler rolled off the lines and workers began draining the molten glass from the last two of the plant's four furnaces still operating."It's a sad day," said Lou Brudnock, president of Local 134 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union, as employees gathered in the plant's parking lot this morning for a predawn rally. "They've opened up her veins," he said, referring to the plant's healthiest furnace, referred to affectionately as "No. 2."
"It's like being in the intensive care room with your mother. We're going to stay with her until the end," he said.
About 75 of the plant's 350-plus workers carried signs -- mostly criticizing the company's largest creditor, PNC Bank, which forced the plant into receivership Nov. 8 after longtime owner John Ghaznavi defaulted on borrowing agreements.
"Give us 30 days" read one sign, while another said the bank's initials stood for "Plant Now Closing."
Other signs reflected the sentiment among workers that the union is being unfairly blamed for the closing.
Three times in the recent past, workers have given concessions to the plant's management, Brudnock said, including last year when they agreed to a 5 percent wage reduction and benefit cuts after a brief strike.
On Nov. 10, employees narrowly voted down a temporary wage concession package proposed by the court-approved receiver, Pittsburgh-based Meridian Group, which was hired by PNC to operate the plant and find possible buyers.
Brudnock said Meridian's president, Margaret Good, alienated the workers at an informational meeting before the vote, and said he approached her afterwards in order to maintain a dialogue, but said she declined further discussions. PNC referred calls to Good, who could not be reached for comment this morning.
Several investors had been looking the plant over in recent weeks, but none came through with an offer, leading Good to close the plant. She said the tanks would be drained completely in order to offer the best possible chance they could be restarted if a buyer is found.
Another regional bottle-making plant, Anchor Glass Container Corp., shut down abruptly Nov. 4, leaving about 300 workers without a job. Glenshaw had been operating on two furnaces since the Sept. 17 flooding shut down operations for two weeks. The flooding scared away at least one potential investor, Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sun Capital Management, which had been negotiating with Ghaznavi to take a majority stake in the plant.
Brudnock said one local investor group is still examining an investment.
Glenshaw workers remained cautiously optimistic this morning that the plant could be saved, but expressed disappointment that PNC and local and state politicians haven't stepped up to help keep the plant operating until a buyer can be found.
"We've been left dying on the vine," Isherwood said.