New Owners to Reopen Window Plant, Site of a Sit-In in Chicago

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The New York Times

New Owners to Reopen Window Plant, Site of a Sit-In in Chicago

by
Karen Ann Cullotta

Armando Robles, left, and Melvin Maclin, workers at the window factory who are to be rehired. (Amanda Rivkin for The New York Times)

CHICAGO - The 250 workers who staged a December sit-in at a Chicago window factory to protest losing their jobs were celebrating Thursday, after another window manufacturer announced plans to reopen the plant and start hiring back the displaced workers within months.

The sale of what had been Republic Windows and Doors to a California company, Serious Materials, for $1.45 million, was completed in bankruptcy court this week, with company officials promising United Electrical Workers Local 1110 to rehire all the laid-off workers at their former rate of pay.

"We see this opportunity to expand our operations in direct relation to the stimulus package, which includes the greening of federal buildings and the weatherization assistance program," said Sandra Vaughan, the chief marketing officer for Serious Materials, which also manufactures energy-efficient windows and building products in Boulder, Colo., and Vandergrift, Pa.

Ms. Vaughan said it could take months to get the company's equipment up and running in Chicago, but to former Republic Windows workers like Armando Robles, a father of five who lost his health insurance in January, the prospect of the factory's reopening was "a dream come true."

"They are promising to hire all of us back sooner or later, but they will start with a small crew," said Mr. Robles, 39, who had been a maintenance technician. "Having another company reopen the factory was always our hope when we occupied the factory in December."

Serious Materials' acquisition of the 125,000-square-foot warehouse that housed Republic Windows comes just days after Republic Windows' former owner, Rich Gillman, ceased operations at his new window plant in Red Oak, Iowa. Mr. Gillman opened that factory late last year as a nonunion plant, after abruptly shuttering the one in Chicago.

"We are sad that the inability to make the company succeed represents a loss for more than 100 workers and their families, and investors who held great hope for this enterprise," Mr. Gillman said in a statement.

Melvin Maclin, 55, a former technician at Republic Windows, said his bitter emotions of the last few months turned to joy this week, after learning that he could soon be back at work, cutting designs into glass windows at the Chicago plant.

"When I got the phone call, I woke up my wife, and we did a little victory dance," Mr. Maclin said. "This is not only a victory for the Republic workers, but for laborers and unions everywhere."

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