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Garofalo reports: "Back in December 2008, laid off workers at Republic Windows and Doors - a factory in Chicago - occupied their workplace to demand back vacation and severance pay, and to protest the fact that they were given just three days notice of impending job cuts. More than three years later, the same factory has had to be occupied again."

Juan Cortez, right, says he and other employees want to buy the Serious Energy factory in Chicago. (photo: Chip Mitchell/WBEZ)
Juan Cortez, right, says he and other employees want to buy the Serious Energy factory in Chicago. (photo: Chip Mitchell/WBEZ)



Workers Win by Occupying Factory

By Pat Garofalo, ThinkProgress

26 February 12

 

ack in December 2008, laid off workers at Republic Windows and Doors - a factory in Chicago - occupied their workplace to demand back vacation and severance pay, and to protest the fact that they were given just three days notice of impending job cuts. Eventually, the bank’s lender, Bank of America, relented, giving the workers what they were owed. At the time, then President-elect Obama offered his support to the protesting workers, saying, "the workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they’re absolutely right."

More than three years later, the same factory has had to be occupied again. Now owned by California-based Serious Energy, the factory was going to be closed until workers locked themselves inside. Now, Serious has vowed to keep the factory open for 90 days, giving workers time to either find a new buyer or purchase the business themselves:

Workers at a window factory on Goose Island ended a sit-in early Friday morning after the company agreed to keep the plant open for 90 days, union leaders said.

California-based Serious Energy will work with the workers to find a new ownership.

"We are committed to finding a new buyer for the plant or if we can, buy the place ourselves and run it. Either way, we are hopeful," Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110, said in a statement.

"We can run this company," said Juan Cortez, a worker at the factory for 23 years. "We got smart people [to] manage the money. We can find customers. We know how to run the company."

The protesting workers were joined by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But such moves by workers are becoming increasingly rare. Work stoppages last year were the second lowest on record, according to data from the Labor Department.

 

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+19 # bluepilgrim 2012-02-26 19:46
The workers CAN run the company, and if the government would put some money towards helping them do that it would not only save on unemployement and other benefits incurred if they were thrown out of work, but also keep a company which would contribute to the local economy and generate tax revenue.
 
 
-16 # MidwestTom 2012-02-26 20:56
If there are ten window makers and all are barely surviving, the weakest one must fail, thus strengthening the market for the others. With economic activity at it's present level it is probably pretty hard to pay the same wages now compared to when the housing market was rolling. The bankers have so much money that they keep loaning money to more and more window makers, until nobody can make a profit, and then the bankers foreclose, and liquidate. If money were not so plentiful businesses would be more profitable andmore people would be working.
 
 
+11 # sean1303 2012-02-27 07:51
"The weakest one" is very simplistic. Weakest because its parent company primarily does something else, and doesn't care much about the division? Weakest because of management looting the company for other ventures? It is not always that the company is not competitive that makes it fail.

If the workers take over the factory, and put out a good product, then I know of at least 20 builders here in Santa Fe New Mexico that I could get to buy and promote to their customers "worker owned, made in America" windows and doors. But then, some of us here seem to care more about that then the average "Wal-mart American" (we have plenty of those here too.)
 

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