Republic Windows, redux? Workers occupy Goose Island plant (Tiffany)

A group of about 65 workers who occupied a Goose Island window factory in 2008 have once again locked themselves inside the plant in a desperate move to save their jobs.

California-based Serious Energy said Thursday it is closing the plant’s doors and consolidating operations in Colorado and Pennsylvania.

“Ongoing economic challenges in construction and building products, collapse in demand for window products, difficulty in obtaining favorable lease terms, high leasing and utility costs and taxes, and a range of other factors unrelated to labor costs, have compelled Serious to cease production at the Chicago facility,” the company said in a statement.

Oscar Abarca, 64, said he got a call from union representatives this morning and was told not to leave the building when shift ended at 2 p.m.

He gathered with the other workers in the cafeteria for a few hours. Some played games or sat quietly to wait for news about their jobs. He needed some air and stepped outside. Police showed up, he said, and he wasn’t allowed back in. He’s been waiting by the front doors since then with a growing number of former employees, students and local labor organizations.

Union leaders say they want time to buy the company or find a buyer. Negotiations inside the plant continue by phone with officials from the company in California.

The layoffs come more than three years after a group of about 200 workers from Republic Windows & Doors organized a six-day sit-in demanding vacation and severance pay after being laid off in December 2008.

The battle drew national media attention. After three days, a settlement was reached. Each union worker received a check for about $6,000 just days after Republic Windows filed for protection under Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Serious Energy bought the 268,000 square foot plant in 2009 with the promise of hiring back the former Republic workers. Leah Fried, a spokeswoman for UE Local 1110, said that the new company never hired back more than 75 of the workers.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-republic-windows-redux-workers-occupy-goose-island-plant-20120223,0,4716311.story

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This blog and its accompanying Twitter account have been established as social media learning tools for the Internal Communications and Employee Engagement class at Columbia College Chicago. Through this blog, we will share our observations about current events, change management and employee communications theory, and the application of social media in shaping employee engagement.
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