Republic workers may get greener jobs

CHICAGO -- A leading company in the green window business, California-based Serious Materials, is in the final stages of working out a purchase agreement of Republic Windows and Doors assets, according to United Electrical Workers Local 1110.

The 250 production employees at the Chicago factory staged a six day sit-in last month to win severance, health benefits and earned vacation pay after Republic closed its doors abruptly. The company had been denied a $5 million loan to continue operating from Bank of America, their chief financial backer. BofA had recently received $34 billion in federal bailout funds, which enraged the workers who were represented by UE.

Though some details still need to be finalized, the union is told the parties are very close to inking a deal. 'We are all hopeful about the possibility of Serious reopening our plant. This would be a very happy ending to our struggle,' said former Republic worker and Local 1110 Vice President Melvin Maclin.

One hold up is resolution of bankruptcy papers filed by Republic Windows and Doors. The workers hope the court-appointed trustee will act to bundle the remaining assets and sell them to Serious Materials, and not allow them to be split up.

On Jan. 6, the UE sought a court ordered injunction through the National Labor Relations Board against the owners of Republic Windows and Doors to force the company to return a production line and other assets they had removed from the plant. The company had moved the equipment to Iowa and reopened production with a non-union workforce. The sit-in actually prevented the company from carrying out plans to remove even more equipment.

Serious Materials is a leading manufacturer of energy saving green building products. Their mission is to reduce greenhouse gasses by 1 billion tons annually. 'These are the green-collar jobs we need for the future of our community,' said Armando Robles, former Republic maintenance worker and president of Local 1110.

Serious Materials and the union believe there is market in the Midwest for the energy efficient, super-insulating windows and commercial glass that Serious Materials makes. Funding from the Obama stimulus plan to reinsulate millions of residential homes with energy saving windows would create a huge market that companies like Serious hope to tap into.

It is expected all of the former Republic workforce will eventually be rehired. The workers are hoping for quick action by the bankruptcy court. 'We hope that the creditors, trustee and judge will allow Serious to purchase the assets soon, so I and my co-workers can start making windows again,' said Robles.