Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis

By Kari Lydersen
Melville House Books, 2009.

The Story Continues...

In late 2008 and early 2009, victories came one after another for the union workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago. When the company suddenly closed, leaving them without jobs, health care or even legally mandated severance pay just before Christmas, they occupied the factory, gained worldwide attention and the support of President-Elect Barack Obama  and ultimately were  paid the money they were owed. Then a California company specializing in highly efficient windows and drywall bought the factory, promising to rehire all the workers. The White House made the factory a poster child for the Stimulus, meant to create jobs through incentives for energy efficiency retrofits. Vice president Joe Biden visited the plant and workers went to Washington. But the story wasn’t over. The Stimulus incentives didn’t create as much efficient window demand as expected, the California company’s promises never panned out, and in spring 2012 the workers occupied the factory again as the owners were planning to close it. The occupation was again a success, buying the workers more time before closure. Ultimately they managed to take over the business – literally – forming a worker-owned cooperative called New Era Windows. It truly is a new era, the workers say. They will no longer work for a “boss;” they are all the bosses. The final chapter in this story remains to be written. But already it seems clear that the experience they’ve gained over decades in the trade; and the bonds of solidarity and friendship forged through two occupations and a five-year rollercoaster ride; will translate to business success and show that workers still can take control of their own destinies, the means of production and the fruits of their labor -- some damn good windows. Stay tuned for more!

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