Former Republic Workers Start Worker-Run CooperativeMay 31st, 2012 by Editor
A group of workers who occupied the former Republic Windows and Doors factory in 2008 and the Serious Energy factory in 2012 are in the news again as they have formed New Era Windows LLC. According to a statement, the company has been incorporated in the State of Illinois and is “a worker run cooperative to manufacture quality, affordable windows.” Under the new venture the workers “will be able to purchase the machinery from their former employer and raise the investments necessary to start up their cooperative and begin producing windows soon.”
In 2008, UE members at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory for six days to win their wages and benefits. Serious Materials, now Serious Energy, purchased the Chicago factory in 2009. In 2012, Serious Energy announced it would be closing , and workers occupied the factory once again. Serious Energy then kept the factory open an additional 90 days–until May 24.
DWM spoke to UE president and cooperative member Armando Robles today about future plans for New Era Windows. He says that Serious had the factory for sale during the past 90 days and when they “didn’t see any action the employees decided to form the cooperative.” The company was working with Brendan Martin, Working World and Dennis Kelleher, the Center for Workplace Democracy, who is aiding New Era Windows in its efforts.
Robles says New Era’s immediate plan is to purchase the machinery.
“They [Serious] bought it for roughly one million and a quarter,” says Robles. “The first quote they gave us was two million. We aren’t going to pay that. They told us the machinery has gained value but we put out a half-million-dollar offer and are waiting for an answer.”
Robles qualifies that the window factory is not owned by Serious and New Era is looking at other buildings in the city to lease and move the factory to that location.
“The building in Goose Island is expensive and too huge,” he says. “We have 22 workers and we want to create more work for others.”
Robles says he knows it won’t be easy.
“We understand it will be difficult,” he says. “We need to ask for loans. We have to do a market study that we are told would take two to three months. No one will give us loans if we don’t have studies.”
Why does Robles and the other workers want to proceed when others before them have failed?
“We know how to make windows,” he says. “We don’t want the high salaries of supervisors, engineers and CEOs. Our main job is to save our jobs and accumulate more jobs for people. That will help us compete with the other companies while making high-quality windows.”
Representatives at Serious Energy did not respond to DWM’s request for comment.
“I am happy for our (former) workers and proud of their resilience” said Kevin Surace, former CEO of Serious Energy. “I count Armando and many of the workers as my friends and wish them the very best in what has proven a difficult midwest marketplace for many suppliers.”