Chicago factory, site of worker sit-in, may reopen

CHICAGO Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:21pm GMT

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CHICAGO Jan 15 (Reuters) - A California building products company is negotiating to reopen the shuttered Chicago factory where laid-off workers staged a much-publicized sit-in last month, a union official said on Thursday.

The eight weeks of severance pay and medical benefits won by the 250 former employees of Republic Windows & Doors is about to run out, so the offer for the shuttered factory comes at an opportune time, United Electrical Workers spokesman Mark Meinster said.

The undisclosed bid came from Serious Materials Inc of Sunnyvale, California, which makes insulated windows and other green building products at three nonunion factories, which it says are operating at capacity.

The company's chief executive heard about the plight of the Chicago workers and called the local union president a week after the settlement to inquire about buying the factory.

The workers' six-day protest became a rallying point for resentment over the federal bailout of banks and Wall Street firms.

Any deal for the factory will require approval of Republic's creditors and the bankruptcy court.

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), which agreed last month to a $1.35 million loan to pay the bulk of the workers' severance, said it would not comment until a deal was done.

The workers recently filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board that accused the owners of Republic of bargaining in bad faith by shipping some equipment to a nonunion window manufacturing plant in Iowa, Meinster said.

They want the equipment returned to the Chicago facility, though Meinster said most production lines are still inside and the California company said it would retool and install some new machinery.

The former owner of Republic, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy that usually involves liquidation of assets, said earlier this week that a creditor has a lien against the equipment and intended to sell it. (Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Andre Grenon)

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