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A Big Time Hurt: Zenith Closing 10 Years Later

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A Big Time Hurt: Zenith Closing 10 Years Later

Today marks the 10th anniversary of a historic plant closure in Chicago’s western suburbs. For more than 3 decades the Zenith plant in Melrose Park turned out millions of picture tubes. Those tubes were installed in televisions and sent around the world under the slogan “the quality goes in before the name goes on.” But after years of struggle, the company decided to close the plant and lay off the last 1,200 workers making a living there. 10 years ago to the day, employees at the Zenith plant worked their last shift and said goodbye to the massive facility.

This is a documentary produced by Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun. He spoke to three Zenith employees about their time at the plant, what it meant to them, and their feelings about the decline of American manufacturing.

A few years ago Chicago photographer Ken Burkhart was asked to document the Zenith facility before it was demolished. He spent days exploring the plant with little more than floor plans and a spotlight. He found parts of the enormous building in disrepair and some rooms so intact they looked like they were still in use.

Ben Calhoun produced this slideshow of their collaborative work.


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