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Republic Windows Sit-In Workers To Get Jobs Back Under New Owner

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MICHAEL TARM   02/26/09 04:04 PM ET   AP

CHICAGO — The factory where laid-off workers staged a highly publicized sit-in that garnered national attention last year was sold to a California company that hopes to rehire them and open in about a month, the workers' union and the new owner said Thursday.

The sale of the former Republic Windows and Doors plant to Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Serious Materials, a green-oriented windows manufacturer, was approved Wednesday by a bankruptcy judge.

The company has agreed to offer jobs to the former workers, said Mark Meinster, a spokesman for the workers' union, United Electrical Workers.

Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace said much needs to be done before work can resume: A lease must be renegotiated with the factory building's owner, and plant equipment needs urgent repairs. He added, however, that despite the economic downturn, demand for his company's energy-efficient windows remains strong.

"If we can do all those things, everybody's going to get their jobs back," he said. "But there has to be a place to work first _ and the equipment has to work. We're not quite there yet."

About 200 of the 240 laid-off workers occupied the Republic factory for nearly a week in December after the company gave them just three days' notice before closing the plant. Republic filed for bankruptcy shortly after the sit-in.

The protest drew national attention and supportive words from then-President-elect Barack Obama, and Republic ultimately agreed to the workers' demands for severance and accrued vacation pay.

Republic's main creditor, Bank of America, was criticized for cutting off funds to the plant, and then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to stop doing business with the bank.

The workers had argued that the shutdown violated federal law because employees were not given 60 days' notice.

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Filed by Ben Goldberger  |