May 31, 2012
Former Republic Windows workers, who came to national prominence when they occupied their factory in December 2008, have formed a worker-run cooperative with the goal of taking the plant over on a permanent basis.
Members of UE Local 1110 have incorporated New Era Windows LLC and are negotiating with Serious Energy to purchase the plant’s machinery and materials. Serious announced it was closing the plant in February.
At that time workers briefly occupied the factory, demanding that Serious work with them to find a buyer to continue operations. In 2008, Republic workers occupied the factory for six days after it was closed without notice; they won severance and vacation pay that was owed them (see Workers Win at Republic). Serious Energy bought the plant in 2009.
Of 270 workers at Republic at the time of its closing, Serious only hired back about 75, said Leah Fried of UE. She said 20 workers have invested $1,000 each to form the cooperative, and another 20 are interesting in joining.
Workers felt Serious Energy “never really tried” and “didn’t do enough to be successful” at its Chicago plant, Fried said. The company cited “ongoing economic challenges in construction and building materials” in announcing the closing this winter, but according to reports, Serious is shifting from green building materials to energy efficiency services.
New Era “is going to be able to make high-quality windows at lower costs because it won’t have to pay the high salaries of bosses,” Fried said. “The overhead is going to be significantly lower than the competition’s.”
And profits will go back into “growing the business and creating more jobs,” she said.
The Goose Island facility is owned by the Wrigley Corporation, which purchased it from Republic for $8 million. It was built with a $10 million TIF subsidy, which was never recovered. Serious Energy’s lease runs through August.