Windows factory workers continue protest

Workers staging a sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors were still camped out on the factory floor last night, as their plight garnered national press coverage and a statement of support from President-Elect Barack Obama. But a “limited” loan offer from the Bank of America late yesterday may help settle the dispute.

Employees of the Chicago manufacturer learned last Friday that the company was shutting down immediately, without severance packages for its workers or payment for unused vacation time. Republic Windows and Doors claimed that its lender, Bank of America, had abruptly cut off its funding. 

“Despite inheriting a company bloated with overhead and lacking any type of manufacturing discipline and/or productivity, the company [made] significant improvements only to encounter unprecedented decline in new home construction,” Republic Windows and Doors said in a Dec. 8 statement. “This placed the company in the impossible position of not having the ability to further reduce fixed costs, coupled with severe constrictions in the capital debt markets and an unwillingness of the current debt holder to continue funding the operation.”

Bank of America claims otherwise. On Dec. 9, the bank sent a letter to Republic Window and Doors saying it is prepared to provide “a limited amount of additional loans” to help resolve employees’ claims “despite the fact that Bank of America is not obligated to pay Republic’s employees.”

The state of Illinois has cut off all business with the Bank of America until the matter is resolved. Unionized workers have refused to leave the factory until they receive the customary 60-day severance check and any accrued vacation pay.

Meanwhile, a Chicago newspaper reported yesterday that Sharon Gillman, the wife of Republican Windows and Doors owner Richard Gillman, recently purchased an Iowa plant that manufactures windows. The facility will be called Echo Windows and Doors, according to the Chi Town Daily News, and is registered with the Iowa Secretary of the State. The previous owner is TRACO, a window company headquartered in Pennsylvania, the newspaper reported.

The Dec. 8 statement issued by Republic Windows and Doors confirmed that the Gillman family formed Echo Windows in November 2008.

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