December 20, 2013
New Era Windows Cooperative moves forward as former CEO is sentenced to jail
by Claire Kelley
Five years ago this month, workers at Republic Windows and Doors factory on Goose Island in Chicago learned that they would be losing their jobs without notice or pay. Instead of accepting this without a fight, the workers—with the support of local politicians, including Barack Obama—occupied the factory and staged a sit-in. We chronicled the story live on MobyLives with Washington Post reporter Kari Lyderson in what we called a “Live Book” — Lydersen filed regular installments as the story unfolded, which we later assembled in print as Revolt on Goose Island, published by Melville House in 2009.
In 2014, Melville House will be publishing an updated version of Revolt on Goose Island, taking recent events into account. On December 5, 2013, Richard Gillmore, the CEO of Republic Windows and Doors who fired the workers, was sentenced to four years in jail on charges of felony theft and fraud. As Lyderson has reported for In these Times, “When the judge asked if there was anything he’d like to say, Gillman turned toward Armando Robles and Melvin ‘Ricky’ Maclin, two of his former workers [both of whom figured heavily in Lydersen’s Live Book filings], and apologized.”
While the workers must feel a sense of justice, they’re busy operating the factory that Gillman formerly ran as their boss. It’s now a worker-owned cooperative called New Era Windows that employs 17 people, which brings the original labor struggle that Lyderson covered as it happened in 2008 to new light.
Labor advocates and experts agreed that Gillman and his associates would likely not have been brought to justice as thoroughly without the activism of the Republic workers and their union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110. The workers and their allies not only attracted international attention to the issue—the occupation also prevented company officials from destroying or hiding evidence.
While the New Era Windows Cooperative continues to face difficult realities, they’re rightly proud of what they’ve achieved so far as a model of worker-owned and operated company.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.