The former CEO of Chicago manufacturer Republic Windows and Doors pleaded guilty to one count of theft of his own factory.
Richard Gillman accepted a plea bargain of a four year prison sentence and paying a $100,000 fine.
Ricky Maclin is a former worker of the Republic Windows and Doors factory. He and fellow workers began a sit-in exactly 5 years ago at the Republic factory when it was abruptly closed during the height of the economic downturn.
They protested for six days over vacation and severance pay owed to them. Maclin now co-owns New Era Windows Cooperative with some of his former co-workers from Republic. He says justice was served.
“New Era might not be here, but Republic would have been still going had he made different choices. As we make choices today, we always keep that in the back of our minds,” Maclin said.
Gillman’s attorney Edward Genson said his client at the time wanted to save the factory from bankruptcy.
“The fellow who tries to help ends up being the butt,” Genson said.
Genson said Gillman was a victim of the bad economy and he ended up being the “fall guy” for a failing business. In the courtroom, Genson said Gillman apologized to the
former workers present because he felt bad for what happened.
Workers like Maclin said thinking back five years ago, he doesn’t completely buy the apology, but he said the sentencing has given him closure.
New Era has been in business since May. The co-op is made up of 16 workers from the Republic factory. The business isn’t turning a profit, but they say they’re at least breaking even. They’re receiving orders from different parts of the country and expect business to pick up even more in the spring.
Co-owner Armando Robles said it’s hard work, but they’re all hopeful.
“Sometimes we feel tired, sometimes we feel frustrated, but we have one hope to have our company. Now, we have our company. Now, we are producing. We have big, big dreams to grow,” he said.
Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @soosieon.