Republic Windows Redux? Workers Occupy Closing Chicago Factory

Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

  – Common Dreams staff

Echoing the 2008 sit-in of the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago, a group of workers have again locked themselves inside the plant — now run by Serious Energy. The company has said it is shutting its operations, and workers are occupying the plant demanding the possibility of keeping their jobs.

Vicente Rangel, Armando Robles, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 President; and Leah Fried, were among the workers and union representatives banding together at the company called Serious Materials Inc. (Terrence Antonio James/ Chicago Tribune) Media are reporting this statement from the company:

“Ongoing economic challenges in construction and building products, collapse in demand for window products, difficulty in obtaining favorable lease terms, high leasing and utility costs and taxes, and a range of other factors unrelated to labor costs, have compelled Serious to cease production at the Chicago facility.”

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Republic Windows, redux? Workers occupy Goose Island plant

A group of about 65 workers who occupied a Goose Island window factory in 2008 have once again locked themselves inside the plant in a desperate move to save their jobs.

California-based Serious Energy said Thursday it is closing the plant’s doors and consolidating operations in Colorado and Pennsylvania. [..]

Oscar Abarca, 64, said he got a call from union representatives this morning and was told not to leave the building when shift ended at 2 p.m.

He gathered with the other workers in the cafeteria for a few hours. Some played games or sat quietly to wait for news about their jobs. He needed some air and stepped outside. Police showed up, he said, and he wasn’t allowed back in. He’s been waiting by the front doors since then with a growing number of former employees, students and local labor organizations.

United Electrical Workers spokeswoman Leah Fried said:

“The workers are refusing to leave. This time we want the possibility of keeping these jobs.”

* * *

In December of 2008, Benjamin Dangl wrote on the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory:

When the 250 workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago were told that the plant was shutting down, they decided to take matters into their own hands. On Friday, December 5, the workers occupied their factory in an act that echoes the sit-down strikes of the 1930s in the US and the occupation of factories during the 2001 crisis in Argentina.

“They want the poor person to stay down. We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s fair and what’s ours,” Silvia Mazon, 47, a formerly apolitical mother and worker at the factory for 13 years told the New York Times. “They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”

The workers are demanding that they be paid their vacation and severance pay, or that the factory continue its operations. They were given only three days’ notice of the shut down, not the 60 days’ notice which is required under federal and state law.

On Friday, fifty of the workers at the plant – taking shifts in the occupation – sat on chairs and pallets inside the factory and were supplied with blankets, sleeping bags and food from supporters. Throughout the takeover, workers have been cleaning the building and shoveling snow while protesters gathered in solidarity outside waving signs and chanting.

The occupation of the factory – which produces heating efficient vinyl windows and sliding doors – is taking place in the midst of a massive recession, with the rate of unemployment in the US at a 15 year high, and with 600,000 manufacturing jobs lost in this year alone. As another indicator of the economic crisis, 1 in 10 Americans – a record of 31.6 million – now use food stamps.

The factory workers are protesting the fact that the Bank of America received $25 billion in the recent $700 billion government bailout, and then went ahead and cut off credit to Republic Windows and Doors, resulting in the subsequent closing of the factory.

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