Firm buys plant where workers staged sit-in

February 26, 2009 5:37:15 PM PST
Laid off workers at Republic Windows and Doors may get their jobs back.The workers staged a sit-in that got national attention last year. All that attention came at a time when a California company was looking to expand.

The saga played out on national television.

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors became symbols of the workers' fight for rights in a recession.

On Thursday, the saga took a happy turn.

"It's fantastic. It's better than a dream come true. It is a blessing," said Ricky Maclin, former Republic employee.

Workers heard last night that a new company serious materials will reopen the facility hiring back workers.

"It's a relief because for the past two weeks, it's been rough because you just start getting anxious. Is it really going to go through," said Vicente Rangel, former Republic employee.

"It is really a sign of hope in some pretty bleak times," said Mark Meinster, United Electrical Workers Union.

On December 5, 250 employees of Republic Windows and Doors were told the plant was closing, leaving them without severance or vacation pay or benefits, a violation of their contract.

The workers staged a sit in that lasted six days. In the end they did get pay and benefits for two months.

News coverage of the workers' plight caught the attention of a man in California. That man is the CEO of Serious Materials, a company that makes energy efficient windows and a company that anticipates increasing demand with the stimulus package.

"Most of the workers made windows for 15 or 20 years. That kind of skilled labor is hard to find. They all wanted to go back to work. We needed that capacity in the middle of the country," said Ken Surace, CEO of Serious Materials.

"This is great. Hopefully, I will be able to finish my years there," said Ron Bender, former Republic employee.

Serious' CEO hopes to have the first batch of workers will be back to work in April. Eventually he hopes to rehire everyone laid off.