SOUTH CAROLINA: Workforce Dwindles as Fiberglass Plant Faces Closure

Photo: Electric Glass Fiber America, located at 1497 Lancaster Highway

By Miriam Cordova

A fiberglass factory in Chester, South Carolina has seen its workforce dwindle after the company announced the plant would be shutting down in February with mass layoffs.

Electric Glass Fiber America (EGFA) opened only 23 years ago and represented one of the few manufacturing jobs left in the region. Japan-based Nippon Electric Glass Co. (NEG) bought the company in 2017. Its fiber glass products are used in high performance engineering plastics, which in turn are frequently used in car manufacturing.

Human Resources Director for EGFA/NEG Brian McIlwain stated that the layoffs would not begin until February 14. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires that companies employing 100 or more workers give at least 60 days’ notice before closing, and the plant’s December 16 announcement fell exactly within this limit, giving workers the bare minimum notice of their impending unemployment.

One employee told Incendiary that only 30 of the original 145 workers are still employed at the plant. At this time it is unclear whether layoffs have started earlier than planned, if workers have decided to quit to begin looking for new work, or if workers were pushed out in other ways.

Incendiary reporters made multiple attempts to speak with workers in the plant, but were consistently denied by security guards. On at least one occasion security guards for the plant left their posts at the door to chase an Incendiary correspondent off the property simply for approaching workers, citing a rule that, “Does not allow workers to make statements to the media.”

This interaction, which occurred at the end of a 12-hour shift, shows blatantly that private security guards are hired not to keep workers safe, but to enforce the regulation of capital. Forbidding workers to air their grievances publicly is a way for the capitalists to secure their own interests, legitimizing their need for profit while delegitimizing the interests of workers.

NEG cited that its products had, “weak demand in Europe and China” as the reason for the closure of the South Carolina plant. It elaborated, “under the circumstances of market recovery turning more gradually than expected, US and Europe glass fiber business subsidiaries have not been able to supplement the reduction of sales and increased costs from operational adjustments through internal efforts, and stagnation of profit continues.”

About an hour north, two commercial truck manufacturing plants have also announced the layoffs of hundreds of workers. Two months ago, Daimler Trucks North America in Mount Holly and Cleveland, North Carolina announced layoffs of 900 workers citing complaints of lowered production demands.

While US President Donald Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US spoke to a real need of workers, the requirements of imperialism ultimately supersede workers’ interests. Trump has attempted to use capitalist maneuvers like tax cuts and favorable tariffs to bring jobs back to the US, but has been unable to do so as imperialism constantly seeks superprofits overseas through the export of finance capital to countries where workers can be exploited more intensely while receiving lower wages.

No amount of tax cuts or favorable tariffs can sustain manufacturing jobs in the US because it simply is not profitable enough for companies like NEG, especially with the ongoing trade war with China. US imperialism creates its own gravediggers, and only socialist revolution can organize production to meet worker’s needs and ensure employment for all those who can work.