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Chicago Workers Open New Cooperatively Owned Factory Five Years After Factory Occupation

Workers at the New Era Windows Cooperative are celebrating the grand opening of their new unionized, worker-owned and -operated business.
 
 
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Workers at the New Era Windows Cooperative are celebrating the grand opening of their new unionized, worker-owned and -operated business. Almost a year to the day after their window factory closed, a group of former workers have launched their own window business without bosses. They successfully raised money to buy the factory collectively and run it democratically. In 2008, some of the workers were involved in a famous six-day sit-in after Republic Windows and Doors gave workers just three days’ notice before closing the factory. The sit-in drew national attention and union workers reached a settlement where they each received $6,000 each. About 65 workers occupied the factory after their jobs came under threat again in 2012. We speak to two worker-owners of the just-opened New Era Windows Cooperative and a labor organizer who helped with their fight.

 

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In labor news, we go now to Chicago. Workers at the New Era Windows Cooperative are celebrating the grand opening of their unionized, 100 percent worker-owned and -operated business. Almost a year to the day after their window factory closed, a group of former workers have launched their own window business without bosses. They successfully raised money to buy the factory collectively and run it democratically.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2008, some of the workers were involved in a famous six-day sit-in after Republic Windows and Doors gave workers just three days’ notice before closing the factory. The sit-in drew national attention. Union workers reached a settlement where they each received $6,000. The Goose Island plant, run by Serious Energy, faced a second occupation in 2012. About 65 workers occupied the factory in an attempt to save their jobs again. This is an excerpt of a documentary produced by the workers’ union, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

ROCIO PEREZ: [translated] They gave us like an hour, more or less. They came and said, "OK, you have your papers. Now go." That is when we said, "No, we’re not leaving. This is where we’re staying."

RON BENDER: So we decided—we just said, "Hey, we’re going to stay here until, you know, you all give us some better answers than this."

FACTORY WORKERS: ¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!

CBS NEWS: This is a group ready for a fight.

MARK MEINSTER: We put it to a vote, and workers decided that they will be staying in the plant for the remainder of the weekend.

CBS NEWS: More than 200 of Republic Windows and Doors’ 300 union workers are staging a sit-in of sorts until they get what is legally owed to them. The union says company officials told employees they were closing shop because Bank of America would no longer extend Republic a line of credit. Bank of America wouldn’t confirm that, due to confidentiality concerns. Workers say the fact that Bank of America received $25 billion in the federal bailout makes this even more unacceptable.

ARMANDO ROBLES: I’m going to stay until the end. If they tell me I have to leave, well, they have to arrest me.

REPORTER: You’re prepared to be arrested?

ARMANDO ROBLES: I’m prepared to be arrested, if it’s necessary.

FACTORY WORKERS: ¡Y no nos vamos! ¡Aquí estamos y no nos vamos!

CBS NEWS: Translation: "We are here, and we are not going anywhere."