A worker’s take on Republic Window and Doors

August 5, 2011

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(Flickr/Jacob Anikulapo)

In December, 2008 executives at Republic Window and Doors in Chicago told workers the 43-year-old factory would shut down in a matter of days. Their business had suffered in the economic downturn, and Bank of America would not extend their line of credit.

The workers, who suddenly found themselves out of a job, asked Bank of America to contribute money to cover payroll, severance and vacation still owed to them.

To back up their demands, more than 200 factory workers staged a sit-in at the company’s Goose Island plant.  And for six days, workers lived inside the factory. 

Eventually, Bank of America and another creditor, JP Morgan Chase, agreed to pay the employees a combined $1.75 million in severance. Republic was later purchased by another company, Serious Materials, which pledged to rehire all of the workers at the facility.

The sit-in attracted international attention and became one of the most talked-about labor disputes in recent memory. Even President-elect Obama weighed in, saying, “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right.”

Two months after the sit-in ended, workers from the plant and their union representatives gathered at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum to share their stories.

One of those workers was Rosio Perez, a union steward and mother of five who had been working at the factory for 6 years.

In the audio above, Perez - speaking through a translator - describes what it was like to live inside the factory while they waited for resolution, and what kept her going.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Rosio Perez spoke at an event at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in April. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.