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New Deal at Republic Windows?

A leading green building material manufacturer is close to a deal to reopen Republic Windows, according to the union representing workers who lost their jobs there — and occupied the plant for six days — last month.

Serious Materials of Sunnyvale, California, is close to finalizing an agreement with creditors to purchase Republic assets, said Mark Meinster of United Electrical Workers.

The company hopes to hire back the entire Republic workforce within a few months, he said.

“We are all hopeful about the possibility of Serious reopening our plant,” said former Republic worker Melvin Maclin in a release. “This would be a very happy ending to our struggle.”

Republic workers occupied the plant for six days in early December, winning support from President-elect Barack Obama as well as an agreement from Bank of America and JPMorgan-Chase to provide financing for vacation and severance pay. Bank of America also agreed to consider proposals to reopen the plant.

UE filed an unfair labor practices complaint on January 5 charging Republic Windows owners with bad-faith bargaining over the plant closing. The owners formed a new corporate entity and moved equipment and business to an Iowa plant, while claiming that economic hardship forced the Republic shutdown, according to the complaint.

About 20 percent of the plant’s equipment was removed, Meinster said, and the union hopes to force its return during a ramp-up period.

A purchase agreement with creditors, principally Bank of America, is in the final stages, Meinster said. Once reached it must be approved by a bankruptcy court. The union is urging speedy consideration by the court, before business evaporates and the workforce is scattered.

Serious Materials manufactures highly insulated windows which reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 40 percent, as well as a green alternative to drywall and other products at plants in California and Colorado.

“They are telling us there is a market for insulated windows, they have a lot of customers in the Midwest and they want a manufacturing facility near those customers,” said Meinster. He said the company contacted the union after the settlement was announced in December.

The company has won awards for innovation in energy conservation from the Aspen Institute and for Top Green Product from Popular Science. They have a company goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by one billion tons a year.

“These are the green-collar jobs we need for the future of our community,” said former Republic worker Armando Robles. “We hope that the creditors, [bankruptcy] trustee and judge will allow Serious to purchase the assets soon, so I and my co-workers can start making windows again.”

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Category: economy, green jobs, labor

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