CHICAGO (Feb. 24, 1 p.m. ET) — Former Republic Windows & Doors Inc. employees called off their occupation of their workplace early today after its owner said it will keep the factory operating for 90 days while the union and management look for a buyer.
The employees, represented by United Electrical Local 1110, took over the facility on Chicago's Goose Island on Feb. 23 for a second time in four years after they said the owner, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Serious Energy Inc., told them it planned to halt production immediately.
Managers later met with union leaders and agreed to keep the facility up and running temporarily, said union organizer Leah Fried.
The workers first occupied the window manufacturer in December 2008 when Republic Windows abruptly closed without paying workers their legally owed severance. Eventually the workers won health benefits and $1.75 million in wages.
In what seemed like a storybook ending, Serious Energy — then known as Serious Materials Inc. — purchased the company and rehired many of the 300 workers who initially lost their jobs. Vice President Joe Biden toured the plant in April 2009, citing it as an example of the Recovery Act putting people back to work.
The United Electrical union has been talking with a New York-based nonprofit, the Working World, which in the last eight years has assisted workers at almost 200 factories in purchasing their companies. The organization got started with the conversion of several factories in Argentina; the story was depicted in the 2004 documentary “The Take.”
Brendan Martin, founder of the Working World, said he has high hopes of making a worker-owned plant into a “very functional company.”