Anchor Hocking has informed staff it will be suspending operations at the end of the week. The company cites a decrease in demand for its products and safety concerns after an employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
As BeaverCountian.com first reported earlier today, Steven Robinson of Beaver Falls publicly announced on social media he had contracted coronavirus, describing a Rube Goldberg-esque process he took to receive medical care. County officials later confirmed Robinson was among several individuals in the county who had been discovered with the virus as a result of drive-by testing provided by Central Outreach Wellness Center in Aliquippa.
Anchor Hocking acknowledged Robinson’s diagnosis in a memo to employees today.
“We have received the test results confirming that one of our Forming Department Employees has tested positive for the Coronavirus. Per the CDC and OSHA guidelines we are informing you of your potential exposure to this infectious employee and you should closely self-monitor for signs and symptoms.”
Employees were instructed to notify the company if they experienced symptoms and not report for work until cleared by a doctor.
The company did not respond to request for comment by BeaverCountian.com. But it acknowledged being contacted by the press in the memo, reminding employees they are not authorized to speak on the company’s behalf without prior approval of its CEO.
As outrage over the company’s continued operation raged on social media, county commissioners were notified this afternoon of Anchor Hocking’s decision to suspend operations.
A memo to employees obtained by BeaverCountian.com reads in part:
“In light of the current situation with COVID-19, the sales decline as a result of the disruption of the US economy, and the safety and well being of our employees and communities surrounding our facility, we have made the difficult decision to shut the Monaca operation down. This decision was not taken lightly as we understand the impact this has on our employees.”
The letter goes on to state the company is set to shut down March 28 at 7 a.m. and reopen the morning of April 9.
“We will keep the furnace hot during the shutdown and will be carrying essential employees to control the furnace operations as well as some maintenance personnel to verify that the plant stays in a condition to resume operations.”
Multiple employees of the company contacted BeaverCountian.com today, complaining of alleged unhygienic conditions at the Monaca facility.
“There is no cleaning stuff in the break room,” said one employee who spoke on condition they not be named. “In the bathroom they have a bottle of Palmolive dish soap to wash your hands and everyone’s grabbing that same bottle … They don’t even have paper towels in the men’s bathroom.”
The employee said they noticed no changes in procedures as a result of the coronavirus diagnosis.
“People are still 2 feet apart pumping out glass like nothing’s going on, they’re back to back with each other … Corporate says they’re taking precautions but I haven’t seen anything anywhere in the building since I started my shift.”
Crews have been working mandatory 12-to-16-hour shifts, with overlapping crew members, according to copies of schedules provided by an employee. Workers said they fear such policies could spread the virus company-wide.
Another employee provided a copy of a form they were presented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “They gave us a paper yesterday they wanted us to sign saying we could be terminated if you call off or go home.”
The “Mandatory/Essential Employee Designation Letter” form states all employees given the designation “are required to report to work during the COVID-19 Pandemic to ensure that essential operations of Anchor Hocking continue uninterrupted.” It goes on to state that, “a mandatory employee’s failure to report to work or remain at work may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”
Workers say the company has been producing glass candle jars and wine bottles.
The employees praised Steven Robinson for revealing his diagnosis and urging others to get tested.
“I feel like a piece of shit on the bottom of their shoe,” said one worker. “At least he told the truth about what happened with him and told everyone to take care of themselves.”