That Chicago Window Factory Now a Worker Co-op!

The Working World, a solidarity funding organization, announced the opening the New Era Windows Cooperative, which completes the five year struggle to convert the Republic Windows and Doors factory into a worker-owned and worker-controlled business.

The Democracy Now interview with two worker-owners and The Working World president is here along with the transcript.

The Working World announcement gives some of the background on this historic event:

After almost a year in preparation, we are very excited to say that today, the New Era Windows Cooperative is opening its doors for business.  The Working World has been an extremely proud partner since day one, providing financing and technical assistance to help bring the cooperative to fruition.

Most people know the history of this factory, formerly known as Republic Windows and Doors, which was closed in a financial scandal and subsequently occupied by its workers for illegal treatment in 2008.  This struggle captured the imagination of the country which was going through its own financial scandal and economic crisis and seemed to suggest we might not have to take our fates sitting down.

In February 2012, the same workers who occupied and won their fight for fair treatment came to The Working World and asked for our help to buy their old factory and re-open it as a worker-owned cooperative.  In August, we invested $665,000 to buy the needed equipment and start the business.  We are now proud to officially open under worker-control.

It has taken an incredible amount of work and dedication to achieve this victory.  To begin, the workers had to fight for the basic right to be at the table and buy the business. They then had to dismantle the old factory, move it across the city to a more appropriate and affordable space, and put it back together again piece by piece.  Each of these steps the workers did on their own, and in the process they demonstrated incredible potential that had never been tapped in their old jobs.

In many ways, this is not the story of a few workers, but of all of America.  The old window factory was closed despite being profitable, its workers sent into unemployment despite their immense potential.  As we watch our once proud workforce dismantled and impoverished by forces and motivations not of their own, we ask if these crises present opportunities.  The workers of New Era want to succeed not just for themselves, but for their country, to show that downsizing does not have to be the end of the story, that there is way forward if we take our fates into our own hands.  The possibilities that are flowering within the walls of their new factory has potential to flower across the country.

To the community, we ask your support for worker cooperatives as a viable and dignified solution to our economic challenges; to support finance like The Working World which puts the needs of people and community above that of profit; and in particular, we ask you to support New Era and buy windows made with integrity and pride in the USA.

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