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Republic Windows workers form co-op

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.

G8 summit funds for jobs?

World Business Chicago, recently tasked with raising $65 million to host the G8 summit, is off the hook for that – and 50 community leaders with Grassroots Collaborative will call on WBC leaders to realign their fundraising prowess to raise $100 million for local employment geared toward neighborhood safety, Tuesday, March 6, 10 a.m., at WBC’s offices, 177 N. State.

Coal ash in Lake Michigan, and more

The Sierra Club reports that toxic coal ash is being dumped into Lake Michigan after a retaining bluff collapsed at a power plant in Wisconsin.  Coal ash contains a variety of toxic substances, depending on the type of coal used, including arsenic, lead, mercury, dioxins, carcinogens and mutagens.  The U.S. Senate is considering a bill passed by the House to block the EPA from cracking down on coal ash in the water supply.

Peoples World profiles Jane Edburg, lead organizer at the South Halsted Unemployed Action Center.  Not previously an activist, Edburg became involved when she lost her shipping clerk position with a Chicago photo lab manufacturer after 32 years with the company – and after losing her unemployment benefits after 99 weeks, while sending out hundreds of resumes and job applications.

The center helps unemployed workers apply for jobs and benefits – and pushes elected officials for action on the jobs crisis.

Wal-Mart marches on in Chicago, but the company’s critics remain, reports Kari Lydersen at Working In These Times.  They say that despite recent p.r. victories, the corporation’s latest move dropping health coverage for part-time workers and increasing premiums shows that Wal-Mart is still “a cut-throat company” that drives down the standard of living.

Finally, a downstate blog posts the Notice of Eviction that Occupy Springfield served on lobbyists in the state capitol.  Great photos, too.

Rally for ‘Jobs Not Cuts’

A new coalition challenging the federal government’s budget priorities will hold a town hall meeting with three members of Congress Thursday night, then adjourn to join Occupy Chicago outside the Bank of America at LaSalle and Jackson.

The town hall takes place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 20 at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, with a press conference at 5:30 p.m.

Move The Money Chicago, which includes scores of community, peace, and labor groups, calls for a massive jobs program funded by taxing the rich and ending overseas wars.

U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Jan Schakowsky will speak at the meeting, along with local residents spelling out concerns – a public school teacher, a victim of foreclosure, an unemployed worker, and others, said Terry Davis of MTM Chicago.

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‘An amazing convergence’

It’s been a remarkable week in Chicago, a nonstop whirl of protests targeting the financial industry and government collusion with corporations, and demanding action on jobs, housing, and schools.

Coming Friday:  a rally for “jobs not cuts,” with MoveOn, Stand Up Chicago, Chicago Jobs With Justice and Occupy Chicago joining forces, at noon at the Federal Plaza.

Occupy Chicago gets much credit for capturing the public’s imagination – and for their 24-7 commitment and important organizational innovations.  But it was community groups and unions that staged some of the most dramatic and creative actions here this week.

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This could be the start of something big

New and old strands of youth, community, labor and peace organizing – voicing growing anger over the state of our economy and our democracy – will come together in a series of events here over the next week, with thousands expected for a major Columbus Day demonstration.

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Protests target trade pact talks

A Labor Day rally will kick off a week of action targetting negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement that critics fear will favor sweatshop manufacturers, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of workers, farmers and consumers.

It’s yet another area where President Obama’s progressive supporters find themselves at odds with his administration’s policies, and it comes days before a major address on jobs in which the president may push for action on free trade deals.

Labor, environmental, community and health groups will rally Monday, September 5, at 11 a.m. in Grant Park at Columbus and Congress and march to the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan, where talks start Tuesday.

The rally will “demand a fair deal — one that stops corporations from reaping big bucks by sending good manufacturing and service jobs overseas [and] depressing wages and benefits in Chicago and around the country,” according to Stand Up Chicago, a local labor-community coalition.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who recently announced that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is becoming entirely fair-trade-sourced, will speak – and provide free ice cream.

Trade officials from eight countries – and hundreds of corporate executives involved as “official trade advisers” – will participate in ten days of talks at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan, starting September 6.

As talks start Tuesday, Ben and Jerry will join fair trade advocates (11 a.m. outside the Hilton) delivering 10,000 postcards to negotiators calling for protection of labor, environmental, and human rights standards. (See below for more activities.) Read the rest of this entry »

Communities to banks: You can fix housing crisis, economy

Banks caused the housing crisis — and the financial crash which threw millions out of their jobs — and they can fix it, according to a new report.

By writing down underwater mortgages to market value – using a relatively small portion of bailout financing they’ve received – banks could put a floor on the housing market, stem spiraling foreclosures, and provide the economy with a badly-needed second stimulus, creating millions of jobs over the next decade, the New Bottom Line Campaign argues in a new analysis.

It was released in Chicago last week at a vacant home on the West Side that’s being rehabbed under a new program — which demonstrates how community pressure can force banks to step up and take responsibility, organizers say.

(And it came out the same day Mayor Rahm  Emanuel announced a foreclosure recovery program that includes not one single community on the hard-hit West Side.)

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  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]
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