Workers Claim Victory After an Occupation with Serious Energy
Dozens of workers emerged from the Serious Materials factory building at 1333 N. Hickory Avenue last night, chanting “Si se pudo!” to cheers from a wet but excited crowd of roughly thirty, many of whom had planned to spend the night in solidarity. Led by UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles, they exchanged hugs as Robles spoke into a camera. First in English, then in Spanish, he welcomed the result.
“We got a good resolution, better than we expected,” he said, and thanked those there for their support. The main portion of the settlement was an agreement that the workers could keep their jobs for 90 days while searching for new owners for the plant, and Robles’ suggestion that the workers could run the company under their own banner was met with applause. “Give us hope, give us work! For the workers of America!” cheered someone from the crowd.
A short, conciliatory statement from a Serious Materials spokesperson followed, but minds were clearly elsewhere, elated with the victory and the future prospect of a cooperative enterprise.
Robles, speaking to press in alternating English and Spanish, described events of the morning, when workers were taken to a notorious anti-union law firm and informed that their jobs would be terminated, effective immediately; though they would still receive 60 days of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act pay, they would not be allowed to work any more. The company planned to begin dismantling the plant for sale, to which Robles and UE responded, “This is not acceptable.”
At the 5 p.m. shift change, workers stayed in the factory, and the rest is (newly written) history. In coming days, Robles said workers will get in touch with workers cooperative groups in New York and Argentina for guidance.
By the time the tents were packed and the workers on their way, the rain had turned to ice and snow, leaving a pair of confused security guards cracking jokes outside the doors of a major labor victory.
—Occupied Chicago Tribune, February 24, 2012
Note: In 2008, workers at the same factory occupied their plant for six days during a labor dispute with its previous owners, Republic Windows and Doors. That occupation forced Bank of America into a $1.75 million settlement with the workers.1