Workers purchase factory and set up a worker-run cooperative

The priority is not profit, it’s labor and jobs

No 506 Posted by fw, June 19, 2012

Congratulations to a group of enterprising Chicago factory workers who have boldly taken their fate into their own hands. Not easy to do in these troubling economic times. Leah Fried, Field Organizer of the United Electrical workers (UE,) talks with Laura Flanders of GRITtv about the decision by Chicago factory workers to purchase the plant they once famously occupied. Fried and Flanders spoke at Labor Notes 2012 in Chicago. My transcript follows the 2:22-minute video.

Laura Fried on Chicago Windows Factory Co-op, published by lauraflanders, June 14, 2012.

TRANSCRIPT

Laura Flanders – Would a co-op work differently from how Republic Windows and Doors worked before?

Leah Fried – Very differently. The most important thing is that it will be worker-run. So, one worker, one vote. Every worker will be an owner. There will be no “employees” except for a few maybe – an accountant or something like that.

Leah — The workers are going to make all the decisions. They’re going to function democratically, and they’re going to use any of their sales to reinvest in the company and their community.

Laura – And what makes you think that the worker co-op would be more successful than the Windows and Doors factory that now two companies have decided to abandon?

Leah – You know it’s interesting because people have asked us why are you trying to start a company here? It’s already closed twice. And the reality is the first time around with Republic Windows and Doors there was a corrupt management stealing money from a successful business causing it to close. And the second time around there wasn’t a real commitment on the part of that company to sales. In fact, for months and months at a time there were no sales reps and no one really trying to promote the product. I think they were focusing on different aspects of their business. We really do think there is a significant market out there for these green windows and now green cooperatively-made windows, and we think we can make a go of it for sure.

Laura – Would worker ownership necessarily make this windows and doors factory more financially viable?

Leah – Well absolutely because you’re not needing to take a huge chunk off the top to pay exorbitant salaries to executives either locally or, in this case, with the headquarters out of state. Right there there’s an intense savings. And that can be passed on to the consumer. So we can produce a window at a better price, the same quality or better, and workers can make a decent living and be able to create some savings for themselves and grow because the priority in this case, too, is not profit, it’s labor and it’s jobs. You know, we’re starting small but we hope to grow and hopefully we’ll have everybody back on the job some day.

Laura – So what do you need to make it happen?

Leah – we need financing. So if anybody’s interested in supporting they can visit the http://www.ueref.org/ [or click here]. There’s updates that are going to be posted there and also a way to potentially donate. And if you need windows contact us.

RELATED LINKS

  • Chicago Workers’ Economic Plan: Go Co-Operative! By Laura Flanders, The Nation, June 15, 2012 – “A group of the workers who occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in 2008 have founded a worker-run cooperative. They’ve incorporated in the state of Illinois; they’ve made a bid to buy the machinery from their former employer; now all they are waiting for is a serious response from Serious Energy, the company that took over the plant from Republic.”
  • Chicago Factory Occupiers Form Worker Cooperative by Yana Kunichoff, Truthout May 31, 2012 – First, they occupied the factory to get their wages from the bosses that owned the machinery. Then, they occupied their factory to keep the second bosses from shutting down their machinery. And, now, they are on their way to owning and running the machinery.”
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