Chicago workers prevent factory closure by occupying, then buying it, February 2012 (Republic Windows & Doors)

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Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
2 p.m. 23 February 2012- 2 a.m. 24 February 2012
23 February
24 February
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Chicago, Illinois
Location Description: 
Goose Island Factory
Keeping the factory open until they have enough time to find another owner or form a worker’s cooperatively run factory.

In 2008, Republic Windows and Doors announced that it would be closing one of its Chicago factories in three days. Over 200 workers occupied the factory for 6 days until their demands for severance and healthcare benefits were met. In 2009, Serious Energy bought the factory and hired back many of the original workers. [In this database, see CHICAGO WORKERS SIT-IN, GAIN BENEFITS AFTER FACTORY SHUTDOWN, 2008.]

23 February 2012, Serious Energy told factory managers that the factory would be closing immediately and that the workers would be paid for 60 days as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

When the managers returned, they put it to a vote whether or not workers wanted to occupy. The vote was yes. Workers were not satisfied with the 60-day wage. They wanted the factory to stay open for more time while they looked for a new buyer or formed their own company cooperative.

Workers quickly organized through the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 union. When work shifts ended at 2 p.m. that day, many workers stayed to occupy the cafeteria.

The number of people involved in the strike varies depending on the source, with some claiming as many as 70 and others as low as 40.

Outside, support quickly grew through the Occupy Chicago movement in addition to family and friends from the local community. Supporters gathered outside the factory with police, who tried to prevent food from entering the factory, hoping the workers would soon be forced out.

The crowd outside pressured police to allow people to bring food from the supporters in to the hungry occupiers at 8 p.m.

The company’s CEO, Kevin Surace, did not think the workers would gain much attention, but when the Occupy Chicago movement, followed by local media, showed up on the scene, he was pressured into negotiations. Surace was on the phone with workers until 2 a.m. At that point, union leader and Serious Energy factory employee, Armando Robles, came outside and told the crowd that the occupation had ended and that employee demands had been met.

The factory stayed open for 90 days in order to give employees the time they needed to find a buyer or open their own cooperative. On 30 May 2012, in the absence of a buyer, employees decided to buy the factory and run it on their own with the help of The Working World, a nonprofit that aids workers in starting their own cooperatives.

The new company’s name is New Era Windows. They began sales in early 2013.

Research Notes

This campaign was influenced by a successful 2008 occupation by many of the same workers.

Works Cited

Cancino, Alejandro. "Republic Windows, Redux? Workers Occupy Goose Island Plant." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 23 Feb. 2012. Web.

Johnny, Hyde. "A Serious Occupation: Chicago Workers Occupy Goose Island Factory." Daily Kos, 23 Feb. 2012. Web.

Sabella, Jen. "Goose Island Plant Occupation: Workers Occupy Chicago Factory In Desperate Move To Save Their Jobs." The Huffington Post. N.p., 24 Feb. 2012. Web.

Sepulveda, Orlando. "Factory Occupation Saves Jobs." Socialist Worker. N.p., 27 Feb. 2012. Web.

"Window Plant Agreement Ends Goose Island Sit-In." NBC Chicago. N.p., 24 Feb. 2012. Web.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Emily Kluver 03/03/2014