Wheels turning again at Chicago factory

Updated

Remember the Republic Windows and Doors company? Or more specifically, do you remember its workers?

They were first in the news in December 2008, when you may have been suffering outrage fatigue, so it’s understandable if you can’t quite summon the details. Here’s The Rachel Maddow Show, December 8, 2008 with the story:

For those not able to watch that video, in short, Bank of America, after taking billions of dollars from taxpayers to save their business, decided to pay back some taxpayers (almost 300 of them) by closing their window and door factory with just a few days notice. Rather than take “go” for an answer, the workers, with the support of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, stayed in protest.

The next few months saw a series of victories for the workers. Here’s Rachel updating the story on March 2, 2009:

Back in December, you may recall us reporting on the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago. The company abruptly closed down and its 250 employees staged a sit-in to protest losing their jobs and to fight for benefits they were due in that shutdown. Our first follow-up to that story was that the employees succeeded in getting those health and severance benefits that they were owed.

Our second follow-up was that their factory might get bought and reopened by a green technology firm in California called Serious Materials. The latest follow-up, sale’s gone through, the factory is likely to reopen, and those workers who fought back are expected to be hired back by this new firm, union jobs in their old factory.

The buyout by Serious Materials brings the story to February 2012. Serious announced that it would liquidate the factory as part of a consolidation plan. Again the workers wouldn’t take “go” for an answer, and by then sit-ins had a new name, Occupy. Rather than hold out for yet another buyer, the workers decided to buy the plant themselves.

After the sit-down, Serious agreed to delay liquidation and to give workers a fair chance to bid on the plant’s equipment. About two dozen longtime employees then formed a cooperative—New Era Windows—kicking in $1,000 each (with the help of family and friends). For months, several workers have been attending weekly co-op management classes.

Serious rejected their bid, and in July 2012 they were back to protesting. By that time they’d also hooked up with Brendan Martin (see the bottom of this page) and his organization, The Working World.

I’m not sure what happened next, but I do find this small bit of further detail:

Serious Energy was on track to liquidate the plant’s assets instead of following through on its pledge to help the workers save their jobs, until a combination of online and offline activism—including a march on Serious Energy investors Mesirow Financial in Chicago—brought the company back to the negotiating table. 

At some point it seems that Strike Debt also played a role – fast-forward to 2:50 p.m. January 30, 2013:

 

Strike Debt, Republic Windows and Doors, Illinois and Chicago

Wheels turning again at Chicago factory

Updated