Fighting for people over profits
UPDATE: Victory! The workers’ cooperative won the right to buy the factory. They are now taking pre-orders for windows, so help ‘em out if you need new windows.
Workers in a Chicago factory are on the front line of a battle for jobs in this country, and the soul of the American economy.
In February, workers at an energy efficient-window and door factory in Chicago were told that their plant — owned by Serious Energy — was about to be shut down, sliced up and sold off for parts.
The workers staged a factory occupation and got an agreement from Serious Energy to delay the factory’s liquidation and give workers the opportunity to buy the plant themselves, with their newly-formed cooperative, New Era Windows. With no overhead for executive salaries, and the potential for contracts with the city of Chicago, which is gearing up for a big energy-efficiency campaign, New Era Windows was looking at a bright future as a worker-run factory.
But then, after months of stalling by Serious, the company suddenly announced on Sunday that all factory bids were due immediately, and that it wouldn’t accept New Era’s offer of $1.2 million — instead, it asked for more money than it bought the factory for in 2009, and rigged the process to ensure that New Era didn’t have a chance.
Tell Serious Energy to get serious: Sit down with the New Era Windows worker cooperative to discuss a reasonable solution that could save the factory from the other bidders who just want to sell the plant for scraps.
These workers want a solution. They have been scraping money together to afford the factory and save their jobs. And they’ve fought like hell before — back in 2008 they occupied their factory for six days and stood down their previous owner who attempted to fire 250 workers without severance pay.
Part of the pressure to sell is coming from Serious Energy’s owners, including Chicago-based Mesirow Financial. For Mesirow, selling the factory off to vultures means padding its profit by couple percentage points. For the workers at New Era, the factory’s sale represents their livelihoods.
As SumOfUs.org members, we want to help the workers save this factory because we know this is much bigger than one factory. This is a chance to showcase another viable model of American manufacturing — worker-owned cooperatives — and deal another blow to the financial sector that relies on the failure of these companies to line their pockets.
Mesirow Financial and Serious Energy can still find common ground with the workers, and reach an agreement that benefits all parties. The companies are trying to rush this through because they see outside pressure mounting, and know that a drawn-out conflict will hurt their reputations, and their bottom lines. By piling on now, we can help drive them back to the bargaining table.
Stand with the workers at New Era Windows: Tell Serious Energy to work with New Era Windows to find a reasonable solution.