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Chicago Workers Stop Layoffs After Occupying Their Factory

Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 24, 2012, 1:20 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

Workers facing layoffs at a Chicago window factory have declared victory after occupying their plant for 11 hours. Through direct community action, including the support of Occupy Chicago, the workers and their union prevented the California-based Serious Energy company from closing the plant for another 90 days. The workers hope this will give them time to keep the plant open, possibly by purchasing it themselves and creating a worker-owned co-op. “We can run this company,” Juan Cortez, who has worked more than 23 years in the factory, told the media. “We got smart people to manage the money. We can find customers. We know how to run the company.” Members of Occupy Chicago showed up in solidarity and brought supplies. In 2008, workers at the same factory occupied their plant for six days during a labor dispute with its previous owners, Republic Windows and Doors. That occupation forced Bank of America into a $1.75 million settlement with the workers.

Via the Occupied Chicago Tribune:

By Dan Massoglia

Dozens of workers emerged from the Serious Materials factory building at 1333 N. Hickory Avenue last night, chanting “Si se pudo!” to cheers from a wet but excited crowd of roughly thirty, many of whom had planned to spend the night in solidarity. Led by UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles, they exchanged hugs as Robles spoke into a camera. First in English, then in Spanish, he welcomed the result.

“We got a good resolution, better than we expected,” he said, and thanked those there for their support. The main portion of the settlement was an agreement that the workers could keep their jobs for 90 days while searching for new owners for the plant, and Robles’ suggestion that the workers could run the company under their own banner was met with applause. “Give us hope, give us work! For the workers of America!” cheered someone from the crowd.

A short, conciliatory statement from a Serious Materials spokesperson followed, but minds were clearly elsewhere, elated with the victory and the future prospect of a cooperative enterprise.

Robles, speaking to press in alternating English and Spanish, described events of the morning, when workers were taken to a notorious anti-union law firm and informed that their jobs would be terminated, effective immediately; though they would still receive 60 days of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act pay, they would not be allowed to work any more. The company planned to begin dismantling the plant for sale, to which Robles and UE responded, “This is not acceptable.”

At the 5 p.m. shift change, workers stayed in the factory, and the rest is (newly written) history. In coming days, Robles said workers will get in touch with workers cooperative groups in New York and Argentina for guidance.

By the time the tents were packed and the workers on their ways, the rain had turned to ice and snow, leaving a pair of confused security guards cracking jokes outside the doors of a major labor victory.

64 Comments

64 Comments


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[-] 4 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

We should have a loan program that provides loans to workers to buy and reopen closed down manufacturing plants. We've lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, over 40,000 plants have been closed, and our treasury can borrow money for "less than the cost of inflation" (in other words, people are willing to "pay us to lend us money").

This is an opportunity for workers to own the places they work for. While employee owned companies, co-ops, nonprofits, etc., have successfully existed for a long time in this country, something like this has never been tried on a large scale. History is littered with stories of regimes who have seized power based on promises like this, but transferring power from the few to the fewer has never resulted in a transfer of power to the many. Once the "fewer" seize power, they won't relinquish it (or at least this is the historical precedent).

Let's cut out the middle man, and give power directly to workers, through "direct loans" from government to workers (with no bank intermediaries, similar to how our student loan system now operates).

Furthermore, manufacturing has a multiplier of over 2.2 (meaning for every dollar generated through manufacturing, we generate over $2.20 in economic activity). This would return unemployment to normal levels. This, I would contend, is something really worth fighting for (mostly because it won't require a century of grass roots activism to accomplish).

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28499) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

This should be an option offered in a Bankruptcy, a possible part of restructuring. If the employees got control of their company they could probably reduce product cost quite significantly and become hugely competitive, like Anderson Window out of Bayport Minnesota. Get rid of the arterial clogging fat at the top.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

Yes, this is one approach (but of course this could be easily wrapped into a loan program, to promote employee owned companies). The fact is we need to do more than merely "prevent the slide" ... we need to reverse some of the damage. My proposal is aimed at both.

Imagine, tens of thousands of employee owned and managed firms, with millions of workers involved in these type of enterprises. This can be accomplished fairly quickly, without any sort of abrupt seizure of private assets (we're simply talking about already closed down and abandoned factories, plants that are scheduled for closure, or companies facing bankruptcy). If a private owner refuses to sell his property, assuming it's just sitting their idle (and causing blight), then eminent domain may be appropriate (although this would likely be unnecessary in most cases).

I would also say we need implementation of a properly structured value added tax (to give our manufacturers a level playing field); and I think the so called "debt crisis" is manufactured. When we can borrow money for less than the cost of inflation, we have no debt crisis, to the contrary, we have an opportunity. In addition to promoting employee owned/managed companies, we should take this opportunity to modernize our physical infrastructure. We need to stop comparing ourselves to Greece based on a single data point. The fact is the Greek economy has been dysfunctional for decades, and we have virtually nothing in common with Greece.

In short, solutions lie right under our noses, and a society where employee owned and managed firms become common place, isn't as complicated or hard to accomplish as many believe. Moreover, it's not even experimental, there's plenty of successful employee owned companies operating in America.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (28499) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Yep. It would be best to catch a business before a slide. It would make it more expensive for the employees to buy but might be a more attractive position for a financier. Make an amicable sale.

The nice thing about a bankruptcy takeover is that it would be so much more beneficial for the employees and perhaps those the business owes money to. Get the current owner over a barrel rather than sitting on his golden throne in a position of power. Have the current financial interests of the failing company side with the employees to protect their interests as well.

Hostile takeover by the employee rather than some resource chopping and selling concern like Mitten Romney s.

Down with venture capitalists.

[-] 2 points by timirninja (263) 2 years ago

Fine. if you be unemployed in Chicago in period MAY 19-21, please visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/26/protesters-urged-occupy-chicago-g8-nato

[-] 2 points by m4trix87 (71) 2 years ago

"Dear" (mis)"management"

Can't manage the business yourself? Why not give the workers a chance?

They may well succeed where you failed.

[-] 2 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Isn't it reasonable to assume that the company wasn't turning a profit and that's why they were looking to close this facility?

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/valleynewsdispatch/s_783475.html

Nice if the workers find a buyer or purchase it themselves, but what difference will it make if the company is right and there is no demand for the product?

[-] 0 points by Courtney (111) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Ya, exactly, who needs windows?

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 2 years ago

I'm not a big enough geek to run Linux and I hate apple crapple......:)

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

windows can transmit the radiant energy of the sun while trapping the heat inside

[-] 0 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Unfortunately, at present, not very many people do. According to the article I linked to demand for the replacement windows made in the Chicago facility has fallen to the point where their plant in Colorado can meet it without much change. The economy has fallen and made the Chicago plant unnecessary. Even if the Chicago workers are given the company, it may turn out to be a hollow victory.

[-] 2 points by Bighead1883 (285) 2 years ago

I sincerely wish these workers the best of good fortune in finding a resolution.They certainly are a brave lot.All the best from Australia.

[-] 2 points by freehorseman (267) from Miles City, Mt 2 years ago

Nice to see some positive news

[-] 1 points by hrthrthrt (4) 2 years ago

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[-] 1 points by lonespectator (106) 2 years ago

That's the funniest thing I've heard so far. Well dumbass...make an offer to buy the company. If they except it, the busines is yours. Welcome to the so-called" 1%. If they don't accept your offer, or just don't want to sell, then get your dumb ass out of his business so the company can go back to making money and supporting the so-called 99% which is really about 20% without your union buddys who hide behind Obama's skirt. Anyway , good luck with your new venture.. LOL.

[-] 1 points by distantdrummer (5) 2 years ago

This is just a continuation of collateral damage, brought on by factors of class warfare, perpetrated by ruling elite in the wealthy 1%. The wars of the present and past administrations have re-divested the nations wealth away from the people and into the pockets of the war profiteers. Using our government, from the President on down, they have accomplished what no foreign enemy or terrorist group has ever done. Adding to this, this group has directed their influence to help create risky banking and investment "business" that has resulted in global economic disaster. We have not witnessed the 'end' of those consequences. What has largely been started in the USA, has spread to infect the global markets of Europe and beyond. It is fueled by greed and dominance. Those workers in the big corporations and the military do not question or oppose authority. Fearful that it could affect their employment, they carry out the directives of those 'in charge'. Without this subgroups' compliance, the elite rulers would be unable to accomplish anything. A worker in a small 'window' factory may seem insignificant to many who are in positions of greater economic status. They are, like the laboratory frog in the container of water being heated. They do not see how this can possibly effect them, until it is too late. Our message is to communicate this to that group. To help them see that we are all part of one family, one body. What effects the foot will have an effect on the rest of the body politic. We stand in solidarity with those unwitting water- carriers found employed in Wall Street and elsewhere. We warn them to save them and ourselves, before it too late. Indefinite detention without duo process is just the beginning of what they have planned for us. Speaking out and warning others is the power that overcomes ignorance. Art can be powerful.www.bush-it-usa.com Speak out while we still can.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

Now we´re talking. These workers(and many others doing the same thing) are amazing. The economic institutions and workplaces should absolutely be a main focus.

Let´s work for Workers´ self management! :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJnX96id-xI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDHBvQRyOr0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YftlB3AxBws

Also, make sure you all watch "The Take":

http://struggleforfreedom.blogg.no/1323595118_documentaries.html

struggleforfreedom

[-] 1 points by Revolutionary (267) 2 years ago

Wealth and the things that create wealth belong to the workers.

[-] 1 points by MichaelB (128) 2 years ago

Where are they going to find a buyer for a failing business?

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[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

green houses in the snow

[-] -1 points by ZenWhoreDog (5) 2 years ago

You nailed it. They pulled the same stunt back in 2008 and this Serious Energy got suckered into buying this business. But I really came to this thread to point out that They did a sit in for 6 days in 2008 to save their jobs and I seriously doubt that they appreciate Occupy trying to take credit for this move. You know, being co-opted by the Occutards. But, considering how little OWS has accomplished, guess they have to try and take credit for anything that sounds like Occupy, which their actions does, since OWS HAS made "occupy" the word of the year!!!

    Dumbocrats
       Are
    Dun (ces)
[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 2 years ago

Tr@shy : Get with the program and stay on message will ya ?!

Chicago has a time served tradition of Labour Struggle. Thus please avail yourself of the knowledge of LUCY PARSONS, a not quite forgotten 99%er heroine :

per ardua ad astra ...

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

SeriousGlass architectural glazing solutions - go far beyond dual pane low-E and triple pane glass systems, granting the freedom to design with maximum glass across all building types and climate zones. SeriousGlass units provide a powerful combination of optimum solar control, blocking summer heat, retaining winter warmth, eliminating harmful ultraviolet rays, and maximizing natural daylight and clarity.

I imagine the layer of film between the glass plate insulates the window so heat is not lost thought it

http://www.seriouswindows.com/commercial/products.html

[-] 1 points by OCCUPYYOURFORECLOSUREdotCOM (2) 2 years ago

well, well. that is the way democracy have to work. I wish you great luck brothers and sisters. take this factory to your hands.

[-] 0 points by rickMoss (435) 2 years ago

This is not a real plan people. We need a new vision for America. Our way of life and government are done!

Don't be Afraid! The Revolution has started - Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( http://www.revolution2.osixs.org )

FIGHT THE CAUSE - NOT THE SYMPTOM We don't have to live like this....

[-] 0 points by vats (107) 2 years ago

the problem is out sourcing

[-] 0 points by norral (2) 2 years ago

i believe they will succeed. when they eliminate unnecessary management positions they will be able to turn a profit. most place are top heavy with too much management. these managers are not needed and just get in the way really. they are just policemen trying to intimidate the workers. power to the workers !!

[-] 2 points by hiddenwheel (83) from Newton, MA 2 years ago

If used as a positive PR campaign, a worker owned factory could be a huge success. It is becoming more and more clear that the people at "the top" are usually the most incompetent. From upper management to CEO's.

[-] 2 points by DarthBuddaGreenPassion (15) 2 years ago

I would rather buy my windows from a worker ran company, than some wall street firm. I am sure many contractors feel the same.

[-] 1 points by engineer4 (356) 2 years ago

I wish them luck, but first they have to assume ownership (buy) of the company and all the risks that go with it. Then they will have to face the tough part of wages, expenses, etc, and who will stay and who will go. And they will still need some management knowledge to operate the business, not just to make windows (the easy part). They will assume a large risk in a very depressed market for their product and they need to understand the risk of their capital that they put into it.

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[-] 0 points by jonkeller (0) from New York, NY 2 years ago

It's better if the workers try to make a go of it, to see if indeed there is enuf of a market for their windows. Too often the business model is that unless there is not enuf of a return to keep the banks and lawyers happy, the business folds. This is how Mitt got his wealth. If there is enuf business to "just" keep paying salaries, then this is not a successful capitalist strategy. When workers run their own enterprise then the possibility of always finding ways to legitimately cut costs , not at workers expense, and not at the expense of the community, then this is the new world order humans need.

[-] 0 points by DanielBarton (1345) 2 years ago

yeah i dont see his turning into a happy ending. I just dont think people are buying the product meaning no money no jobs

[-] 0 points by richardkentgates (3269) from Fort Walton Beach, FL 2 years ago

This is outstanding. It's so much like the happy ending to a movie it's ridiculous.

[-] 0 points by freakyfriday (179) 2 years ago

Uh, the workers at this factory did a sit in in 2008. Looks like all they got was 3+ more yrs work and sucked a lot of money out of some new owner's pockets. You like black comedy?

[-] 1 points by richardkentgates (3269) from Fort Walton Beach, FL 2 years ago

Public records show that shortly before the closure of Republic Windows, the owners have purchased Echo Windows and Doors, a non-unionized window factory in Red Oak, Iowa.[2][6] The union at Republic Windows has since filed charges against this action.[7]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_Windows_and_Doors

So now that you see where the money went so that they could declare bankruptcy, you should be able to defend why the workers should be penalized for the scandalous actions of the 1%ers that owned the place and sold them out for a quick buck, right?

[-] 0 points by rama (0) 2 years ago

we have many sucessfull cooperative factories in Argentina, shows that the model is the right one. maibe the only model that can provide social justice, fair wadges, no explotation, not bad in the middle of this cannibal capitalism

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[-] 0 points by Bullmooseparty (21) from West Orange, NJ 2 years ago

Well I wish them good luck. If the business fails, which it probably will, with them as owners they are really screwed.

[-] 1 points by ChemLady (576) 2 years ago

I too wish them luck, but as someone else said above, there is a reason the company wants to move production to another facility. The 60 workers they have in another state can meet the new lower demand for their windows. There doesn't seem to be much of a market for the product at present.

[-] 1 points by Bullmooseparty (21) from West Orange, NJ 2 years ago

I have to agree. Companies don't shut down their plants unless they have good reason to. But if they wanna try it then hurray for Capitalism, they have an idea, a vision, let them follow it and learn from it.

[-] 1 points by ChemLady (576) 2 years ago

The employees did something similar in 2008 when the original company went bankrupt. They staged a sit in and someone found a buyer and they were rehired. Serious Energy bought the plant but lately hasn't been able to make any profit. If they manage to come with the capitol or find a buyer they are going to need a lot of luck to be successful in this economy.

[-] 1 points by Bullmooseparty (21) from West Orange, NJ 2 years ago

One thing is for sure I'm not investing any of my money in them.

[-] 0 points by Bayraba (24) 2 years ago

Yes. No need for 'capital' to own the means of production.

The Mondragon Cooperative have been doing this extremely successfully since the 50's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation

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[-] 0 points by PetadeAztlan (113) from Sacramento, CA 2 years ago

Truly Revolutionary! ".... workers hope this will give them time to keep the plant open, possibly by purchasing it themselves and creating a worker-owned co-op...." Power to the People!

The whole idea is that workers do not need fat cat corporate capitalists ruling over them. We must support all positive labor struggles and see the interconnections happening. Occupying a park is one thing, but taking over a factory is a strong exhibition of People Power! Power to the People! ~ @Peta_de_Aztlan

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 2 years ago

Imagine that. They'd rather run their own damn company, rather than go on all that generous unemployment and welfare.

I wish them well......:)

Union yes!!

Occupy everything.

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[-] 0 points by wellhungjury (296) 2 years ago

IF they can afford it, then buy it. The shoe will be on the other foot, but at least it's your foot.

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[-] -1 points by marga (82) 2 years ago

What on earth have we done to our own people? We put them in the poor house and out on the streets, in jails, prison and mental institutions because they didn't believe what we did or had a different point of view. And we try to fool the world into believing America is a free country lol. Who are we kidding? Lets go and bring some order back. Our people deserve better then that.

[-] 0 points by Bullmooseparty (21) from West Orange, NJ 2 years ago

What are you talking about?

[-] -1 points by Kennethnoll (1) 2 years ago

Just remember there is an owner somewhere and what rights do they have? Maybe no rights if you employ union labor. Way to go union, it only matters what we want right?

[-] 3 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

It's not really the union this time. This is more a simple economic decision, demand for the windows is down. The company can move the operation to another plant and the existing workforce can handle the small demand for these replacement windows.

If the workers buy the facility it will make the anarchist/socialists feel all warm and fuzzy inside for a while. In a year or two if things don't pick up the business will fail.

[-] 3 points by Bighead1883 (285) 2 years ago

Would it not be far better to be armed with the facts before making such a silly comment.Did you even watch the video?Furthermore with stronger unions,the American workers would not be in the pathetic state they are working for corporations like Walmart that only pay subsistence wages and ask the American taxpayer to cover shortfalls like health insurance and food stamps.In weakening your unions you have allowed corporate greed to turn the workforce into a serfdom.

[-] 0 points by Concerned (455) 2 years ago

The issue is that the former owner of the window making plant - which employed the same union workers - went bankrupt in 2009. Serious Materials agreed to go in and re-tool the factory and rehire those workers. Biden went there after it had received funds from the Stimulus...now three years later, the new company could not make the business stay open.

I hope that these workers can get the business up and running, but the history suggests that they will - like two owners in three years - find that an impossibility.

[-] 4 points by JDub (218) 2 years ago

U know, its possible that fat cats at the top are to blame for the lack of profitability, as in, they require too much compensation for no actual production.

[-] 2 points by Concerned (455) 2 years ago

It is possible yes. But so is the fact that maybe there is no market yet for the windows they are making.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

the windows could reduce heating expenses for buildings are homes in the north

[-] 1 points by Concerned (455) 2 years ago

Okay, but if no one is buying them?

The fact is that two owners have either filed bankruptcy or had to shut the doors in three years.....

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

that's a shame

there's no need to waste so much energy staying warm

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[-] 3 points by Bighead1883 (285) 2 years ago

Thank you for the those facts, Concerned..I still do admire them for the hope they show.

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[-] -2 points by marga (82) 2 years ago

Great work

[-] -2 points by ShubeLMorgan2 (1088) from New York, NY 2 years ago

This is how Occupy is changing things. Good for you ! You are making history.

[-] 2 points by Kennethnoll (1) 2 years ago

What occupy wants is what other people that work for a living have.

[-] -2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 2 years ago

Awesome!!!

[-] -3 points by shaolong11 (-2) from 纽约, NY 2 years ago

We got a good resolution, better than we expected,” he said, and thanked those there for their support. The main portion of the settlement was an agreement that the workers could keep their jobs for 90 days while searching for new owners for the plant, and Robles’ suggestion that the workers could run the company under their own banner was met with applause. “Give us hope, give us work! For the workers of America!” cheered someone from the crowd. www.gochinashop.com
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[-] -3 points by XenuLives (1645) from Charlotte, NC 2 years ago

Great job guys :)

[-] -3 points by beautifulworld (21054) 2 years ago

Excellent. Until workers begin to stand up for their rights in actions such as these the corporations and wealthy will continue to exploit. Good for them. Bravo.