[UPDATE – 9:00 AM CT] Earlier this morning, more than fifty workers concluded a sit-in at a plant in Chicago. The workers, who earned the support of Occupy Chicago and workers from other local unions, won an agreement with Serious Energy, the owner of the factory, to keep the plant operating for 90 days.
Workers of UE Local 1110 were told yesterday that the plant they were working in would be closing. The workers launched an occupation and the company immediately began talks with union representatives. The company struck a deal with the union after twelve hours of occupation.
As Armando Robles, President of UE Local 1110, said in a press release, “We started the morning with the plant closing and ended the day with work and a chance to save our jobs…”We are committed to finding a new buyer for the plant or if we can, buy the place ourselves and run it. Either way, we are hopeful.”
The factory is the same factory that in 2008 was owned by Republic Doors & Windows. In 2008, the workers occupied for six days and won wages and benefits that were owed to them by Bank of America. They also found a company, Serious Energy, to purchase the plant and re-open it.
The company spun the occupation and declared, “Members of the press received incomplete and incorrect information that Serious Energy would be closing the facility immediately. The Chicago plant remains open at this time, and the parties are working together to find a new owner if possible and explore all other options.”
The spin makes it seem like the workers overreacted.
Do members of unions just have sit-ins that could put them at risk of legal trouble for the thrill of it?
It is doubtful that the workers just started to occupy because they were “confused.”
Just over three years after occupying Republic Doors & Windows to save their jobs, union workers have once again occupied the factory on Goose Island in Chicago. The factory, now owned by California-based Serious Energy, was to shut down today. But, workers wanted a chance to save the jobs and find a buyer. Serious Energy refused and fifty workers decided to re-occupy the factory to save it from closing.
The workers, who are with part of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) union, said in a press release:
Workers demanded a chance to save these jobs and find a buyer or purchase the factory themselves and start a worker-run enterprise. Serious Energy refused. That same day workers voted to once again occupy their factory to win justice and jobs. While negotiations between the workers of UE Local 1110 and Serious Energy continue, workers have vowed to occupy just as they did in 2008.
The press release included some history on the factory:
In 2008, workers at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory for six days and won $1.75 million in wages and benefits owed to them from Bank of America. In 2009 the factory was purchased by Serious Energy, a green window company. This morning (Thursday, February 23, 2012), Serious Energy informed the workers that their window factory in Chicago would close effective today. The company said there is no longer manufacturing taking place and they plan to dismantle production immediately.
Leah Fried of UE told the press that workers were negotiating with police and those in the corporate office in California. She thanked the fifty to a hundred supporters that came down to stand in solidarity with the workers and said the show of support was helping. And, Fried said, “We’ll be here as long as it takes. We’ve done it once, we’ll do it again.”
Pizzas were delivered around 7:30 pm CT. The police initially tried to stop the pizzas from getting to the workers inside the workers. Supporters chanted, “Let them eat!” The police eventually let the pizzas go through the doors.
As of now (8:45 PM CST), the situation is mostly calm. Although a police van and several police cars are on the scene, police have been negotiating with union representatives.
The story quickly spread on Twitter. News of the occupation broke around 5 pm CST. Hours later, the news was being shared widely under the #SeriousOccupation hashtag.
The action is already getting a good amount of media attention because what happened in 2008 is still fresh in the minds of those who live in Chicago.
The workers inside have a real opportunity. And, not only will they have unions and other Chicagoans there to support them but this time they have the Occupy movement too. They could save the plant from closing. This union has, as Fried said, done this before.
For more on the story, here’s a Storify with updates on the re-occupation of the former Republic Windows factory.