Archive for September, 2008

Glass Industry Employment Continues to Fall

September 25, 2008

Recently the Wall Street Journal had an article on Crystal City, Mo., where PPG Industries had a flat glass plant they billed as the world’s largest until they closed it in 1990.  Like the glass plants built in so many towns and cities in the 20th century, this glass plant was in the center of the town. The article reports that the plant site was bulldozed after the glass plant was closed, and the site has remained empty.   Many towns which used to have glass plants in the center of town still have the empty factory buildings standing.  When the plant closed, hundreds of people in the Crystal City area lost their jobs at the plant, and many others lost related jobs as well.

In 1977 there were 175,100 U.S. glass industry employees, including those at bottle plants, flat glass plants, fiber glass plants and smaller decorative and household glass manufacturers, according to the Annual Survey of Manufactures. In 1987 the Survey reported a total of 153,200 glass industry employees (a 12.5% drop).  By 1997 glass industry employment had dropped again, to 128,876 (15.87%), and for 2006, the latest year for which the Annual Survey has released numbers, glass industry employment was reported at 100,919 (down 21.7%).  While we were watching, glass industry employment has decreased 42.3% in the past 30 years.

Some of these employees worked for plants that had closed because more beverages were packaged in plastic bottles, and some closed because glass manufacturers outside the U.S. were making glass products that they could sell in the U.S. for less than the prices charged by U.S. manufacturers. In the current economic climate, the cost of energy is making it more difficult to make and sell glass in the United States.

As we mentioned in a previous post, General Electric is just one of the glass manufacturing companies which has announced that they will be closing glass plants this year.

YouTube has several videos of glass machinery in action, including one made at the Clarion, Pa. Owens-Illinois plant where glass bottles are made. It is very difficult for most people to actually take a tour of a working glass plant, but these videos help those who can never get inside a plant see what an amazingly beautiful process glassmaking is.