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.
NAHB cuts staff
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced cutbacks on staff and operating costs that will result in the savings of $11.5 million for the association in 2009.
The move was described by President and CEO Jerry Howard as “by far my toughest and most difficult decision,” in his 20 years at the NAHB.
“With our builders and other members of the housing industry confronting the most serious recession in more than 50 years, we are announcing today that NAHB is cutting $11.5 million from its operating budget to ensure that NAHB remains the premier advocacy and service trade association for the residential construction industry,” he said, in a prepared statement.
The organization will eliminate 52 positions, of which half are currently vacant. Certain expenditures previously approved for 2009 will also be reduced.
The cost cutting was brought on by what Howard called “stark financial realities.” The NAHB’s two main sources of income – membership and trade shows – are expected to be down significantly in 2009.
“By taking this action now, we help position the association to maintain its advocacy leadership and vital services for an industry struggling in the toughest economic environment seen in generations.”
Facilities achieve energy accolades
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized “Energy Champion Plants,” including plants operated by CertainTeed, Black & Decker and Osram Sylvania.
The awards program is part of Save Energy Now, a national initiative of the DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) to drive a 25 percent reduction in industrial energy intensity in 10 years. Industrial companies can participate in no-cost energy assessments and utilize ITP resources to reduce energy use while increasing profits, according to the DOE.
Forty-three plants were recognized for Champion Plant status, which means they achieved more than 250,000 MMBtu total energy savings or more than 15 percent total energy savings. The plants include: Black & Decker in Tampa, Fla.; CertainTeed Corp., Roofing Products, in Shreveport, La.; and Osram Sylvania in St. Marys, Pa.
The group also recognized Energy Savers — plants that achieved more than 75,000 MMBtu total energy savings or more than 7.5 percent total energy savings. These include Owens Corning in Savannah, Ga.; Johns Manville in Jacksonville, Fla.; Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas; and DuPont in Deepwater, N.J.