via OWS Coops
Our Best Chance for a Better Future: Let the People Rule
The Republic Windows and Doors workers in Chicago are trying to take the first step into that future and are attempting to buy the factory they used to be employees in. But the company would rather scrap the factory and avoid the workers. We will all lose if they lose.
Chicago Workers Fight Back
The cost of living keeps rising as wages fall. We can sit back and whine, or we can stand up and fight. The factory workers of New Era have chosen to fight. Rather than watch their jobs sunken into the abyss by the rich, they’ve decided to buy their factory. It’s a good faith effort to build a better world where they will both earn their keep and experiment with self-management. Now, their company, Serious Energy, is trying to deny them the right to bid for the machinery they’ve been working on for years. As they march the 99% into exciting new efforts toward economic justice, we, members of the cooperative working group of New York City, call everyone who has supported our movement to stand with them.
The Full Story
For far too long, the United States manufacturing sector has been hemorrhaging good union jobs, particularly across what is now known as the Rust Belt. Chicago, the city of broad shoulders, is a city that has struggled with skyrocketing poverty and the departure of hundreds of thousands of blue collar families who just couldn’t make ends meet.
When Bank of America and the Republic Windows and Doors company decided to illegally cut the jobs at a tax subsidized factory on Goose Island, the workers and their union, Electrical Workers Union Local 1, took the immediate steps to demand their just rights to compensation and/or their jobs. They didn’t whine and complain that the economy wasn’t working for them, right in 2008 as the banks were being bailed out and the people were being sold out. They took direct action to make sure they could continue to feed their families.
It was the first factory occupation this country had seen in 71 years, and it represented a break with the fear and complacency with which working people had been taking the hit for the inept management of their bosses and the banks. They thought a new company, Serious Energy, had come along to build sustainable products and keep the United States working.
Nearly three years later, working people across many classes came together in an effort to reverse the growing brutality of economic inequality in the United States, and build a new world based on the principles of direct democracy and dignity for all. We gave rise to a whole series of occupations of parks and plazas across the country and the world.
The workers, as many of us have, came to find that there’s no way to place all of their faith in big businesses and the same system that keeps grinding us back down. Serious Materials, for one reason or another, has been unable to turn the factory around. And that’s fine, because these workers have a sense of imagination. They’re ready to run their factory themselves. Just as cooperatives like ours have found fertile soil in Occupy Wall Street within which to grow, These workers are seeking a new way forward based in a rich history of economic democracy the world over.
The idea is simple. If owners and bosses can’t keep us working, then let’s try to do it ourselves. The workers at this window and door factory have appropriately titled themselves New Era, seeking a solution for working people out of a system that has cast us aside out of blinded greed.
Unfortunately, Serious Energy and its financial backers have not stuck to their side of the bargain much better than Republic did. Where Republic and Bank of America attempted to sell off the parts of the factory to a non-union plant in Iowa, violate Illinois law that the workers get 90 days compensation or notice, and continued to receive tax subsidies for maintaining jobs that they had in fact cut, Serious sounds ready and willing to sell off the factory, and refuse the workers their fair opportunity to buy the very parts they’ve been working on for many years to protect their jobs and attempt a cooperative model.
As workers in current or developing cooperatives, and people tired of bankers willing to gamble away any sense of human progress and their bought out politicians, we stand in solidarity with the workers of the proposed New Era cooperative in both their willingness to create what they were told was impossible, and their fight to get a fair shake in the bidding process from Serious Energy, and its financier Mesirow Financial. If corporations can’t solve our economic crisis, then we’d like to see them get out of the way and let us build democratic solutions. Even funnier, Mesirow Financial claims that 91.5% of its company is owned by a quarter of its employees, and we want to know why they’re willing to deny that style of management to the UE workers at New Era.
It is the duty of everyone who has believed in our movement, as well as those who told protesters to stop whining and just work, to come out in support all of these people who are ready to labor and willing to experiment with direct democracy.
If you can get involved, please share and sign on to this statement, head over to interoccupy.net/newera, and help us keep the pressure on. Negotiations are scheduled to begin again on Friday so it’s very urgent. Join the conversations on the forum or start one to figure out a strategy to support these workers, and consider donating to the workers’ fund to purchase the factory.
And when everything’s said and done, we know where we’re buying our windows.
-The NYC Occupy Wall Street worker cooperative working group & OccuCopy