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NLRB Chicago Window Company Violated Labor Laws

April 1, 2009
Related Topics: Downsizing, Labor Relations, Latest News
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Republic Windows & Doors Inc. violated federal labor law when it abruptly closed its Goose Island factory in December, the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board has determined.

Federal investigators found the window manufacturer failed to negotiate in good faith with its unionized workers and ducked its collective-bargaining obligations when it created an alter-ego company in Iowa, according to a decision reached by the office Friday.

A Republic Windows representative was not available for comment.

Joseph Barker, director of the NLRB’s Chicago office, plans to file a formal complaint against the company unless a settlement can be reached. If Republic and its workers fail to reach a settlement, the complaint will go before an administrative judge who will issue a ruling.

Republic Windows made national headlines in December when its workers occupied the factory for six days to protest the manufacturer’s sudden closing and failure to pay severance. Federal law requires employers to notify workers at least 60 days before a plant closure, or to pay workers 60 days’ worth of wages. The sit-in enabled the workers to win health benefits and $1.75 million in wages owed to them.

Since then, Serious Materials of California has stepped in to buy the business and has rehired many of the 300 workers who lost their jobs when Republic Windows closed.

While the regional board’s ruling favored the workers, it also highlighted problems with federal labor law, said Leah Fried, an organizer for United Electrical Workers, which represents the Republic workers.

“You and I pay more for a parking ticket than that employer will pay for violating federal labor law,” she said. “The frustrating thing is there’s not a real deterrent in the law. ... If workers hadn’t taken over their factory, they wouldn’t have gotten anything.”

Filed by Claire Bushey of Crain’s Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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