Echo Windows, indeed. The only echo is the sound of yet another window factory owned by Richard Gilman shutting down. Several commenters to this blog had recently pointed out that Gilman’s Iowa plant of Echo Windows was shutting down, too – this after he shuttered his Illinois-based Republic Windows, causing a sit-in of workers that garnered national attention, including that of President Obama. Here’s a great article with all the nasty details. What a tangled, nasty web….
I love songs that tell a good story. And sometimes putting songs from different artists together can create a narrative of it’s own. And as I was cruising YouTube through my Wii internet channel (an awesome feature of the already awesome Wii), I was piecing together some songs that have touched me, and that speak to me of the current crisis Americans are facing.
So I start with a song that’s twenty years old, “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” from Tracy Chapman’s incredible debut album, in which she sings that “Finally the tables are starting to turn…Talkin’ ’bout a revolution…”
Then it’s on (or back) to Peter Gabriel’s haunting “Don’t Give Up,” from one of the best albums of all time (in my opinion), his 1986 “So”, on which the song “Don’t Give Up” is an ode to hanging on during hard financial and mental times, with an amazing vocal duet from Kate Bush: “Rest your head / You worry too much / It’s gonna be alright / When times get rough you can fall back on us… Don’t give up. Please don’t give up.”
Then I finish up with (who else) the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, from his most recent album, “Magic,” singing about the “Long Walk Home.” It’s a song of redemption on the horizon, that uses imagery similar to that of his earlier, “My Hometown” and applies it to the story of America, of what we’ve become, and how far we have to go to get back to it: “And that flag flying over the courthouse means certain things are set in stone / Who we are and what we’ll do, and what we won’t”
Yes, it’s going to be a long walk home from where George Bush and Company have taken America and the world. But we’ll get there. Don’t give up. The revolution is just beginning. Be part of it. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Tracy Chapman, “Revolution”
Peter Gabriel, featuring Kate Bush, “Don’t Give Up”
Bruce Springsteen, “Long Walk Home”
Just curious about a few things:
1) Who provided the financing for the Echo Windows purchase of the Traco residential windows division and it’s factory in Iowa?
2) Has the Illinois Attorney General issued any findings from her investigation into the Republic Windows closing?
3) Are there any possible penalties to the owners of Republic Windows, which has now filed for bankruptcy, for not following the WARN act or other requirements when a company like Republic shuts down and lays off workers?
Ever since first hearing that the owners of Republic Windows were hastily starting up a new company, Echo Windows LLC, and buying a factory in Iowa, while shutting down their Illinois factory and running out of town without paying their workers what they owed them, I’ve wondered how it would feel to be one of the workers in their new company? Well, it seems they’re a tad…worried.
But first, a quick timeline:
On Nov. 18th, while Richard Gillman’s Republic Windows was apparently “negotiating” with Bank of America for more credit, Echo Windows LLC was incorporated by Sharon Gillman, Richard’s wife.
On Dec. 3, another company linked to Republic Windows, Red Oak Real Estate LLC, purchased the Traco windows factory property in Red Oak, Iowa.
On Dec. 4, – the very next day – the Chicago workers were told that Republic Windows would close, and that the corporation was out of funds, so couldn’t pay the worker’s legally required severance.
And on Dec. 4, their new company, Echo, purchased a division of Traco Windows and the factory in Red Oak, Iowa. The factory employs about 100 people. The population of Red Oak is about 6,000.
As I said, Echo Windows workers in Red Oak are worried – understandably so.
As this article at OmahaNewstand.com puts it:
…local leaders and workers wonder if the troubles of Republic Windows could spill over from Chicago.
“It’s a little uneasy,” said Brad Wright, Red Oak city administrator. … Wright, like other local leaders, said he has heard talk about the company’s plans. But nobody from Echo Windows has contacted Wright, the local industrial foundation or Mayor Ted Schoonover, whose wife, Sandy, works at the plant.
George Maher, director of the Red Oak Industrial Foundation, said he tried to meet with Echo officials when they came to Red Oak last week, but company representatives declined the invitation.
“I wanted to welcome them,” Maher said. “They just said to call back.”
The Gillmans are obviously the strong, silent types. Or is it the Nixon/Bush stonewall-‘em type? Not sure. But the article goes on to read:
Workers at the Red Oak plant have been reluctant to talk about the situation. After the Chicago plant’s closure made headlines, employees were reminded of the confidentiality agreements they signed when hired, said one employee, who spoke on the condition that he not be named.
Local workers are right to be concerned in light of the recent turmoil in Chicago and the poor state of the economy, said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor.
“In this economic situation that we’re in, it’s pretty disturbing to see all the workers who are getting jettisoned to make sure companies stay afloat,” Sagar said. “Our concern would be to see Iowa workers in the southwest corner of the state getting treated like the ones in Chicago.”
Still, Illinois’ loss could be Red Oak’s gain. “This could be an uplift to the economic base,” said Red Oak’s mayor. At least…in the short term.
During the whole Republic Windows situation, what seemed to be sorely missing was the perspective of Republic Windows owner, Richard Gillman, who as you know had gone on to form Echo Windows LLC and buy a company and factory in Iowa, even as he was telling the Illinois workers good riddance. We heard a lot from the workers and the union, some from local and national politicians and even Obama, and some from Bank of America. But Gillman himself seemed to be eerily silent – for good reason, apparently. Because once he’s heard from, it’s difficult to accept what he says. For example, consider this from an article in the New York Times, after the situation was resolved:
…Republic’s chief executive, Richard Gillman, demanded that any new bank loan to help the employees also cover the lease of several of his cars — a 2007 BMW 350xi and a 2002 Mercedes S500 are among those registered to company addresses — as well as eight weeks of his salary, at $225,000 a year.
I guess his thinking was that if the workers are going to get theirs, then he might as well get his, too! Nice. So, first he shafts the workers of what his company owed them, then he wants to latch on. Admirable.
Check out this blog post for a tasty opinion on Mr. Gillman:
In a follow-up to my earlier “Aw C’mon… It’s The Holidays” post, here’s another of what I consider to be heartless answers to what was the Republic Windows worker’s plight. This one from Tracy Coenen’s Walletpop blog, where she posted that “If Bank of America doesn’t want to extend credit to Republic, the company shouldn’t be essentially forced into doing so.” I asked her what her solution would be, then, to getting the workers the severance they were due, and her answer in the main was this:
The workers should pursue the company and the owners through the legal system with whatever options are available to them there. It is not Bank of America’s responsibility to pay them, either legally, ethically, or morally. The responsibility is on the company and its owners.
Egads. So I responded with this:
We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.
It was Republic’s owners who have legal responsibility to have the worker’s severance pay available to distribute to them. So, if anyone should be on the hook here, it should be the owners.
Bank of America should then pursue the owners through the legal system with whatever options are available to THEM, to collect on the credit extended to the owners to pay the workers what was already legally due to them.
I must say that asking laid-off workers, without jobs, income, or healthcare, to pursue the owners is a ludicrous suggestion, out of touch with reality, and displays to me an incredible lack of sympathy on your part. If my father or mother was one of those workers….Grrr…Can you really imagine what you suggest? Instead, those owners now need to be pursued by both BofA for repayment, AND by the Federal government for acting in bad faith, if not violating terms of the WARN act or whatever other laws they were supposed to obey.
And, by the way, if I was a worker at Echo Windows LLC, I’d be a little worried, and quite skeptical of who I work for. Wouldn’t you?
And speaking of Echo Windows, I’m still curious about them. Anyone know more that you’d care to share?
I have seen so many comments about how terrible it is for BofA to make another “bad” loan to a company (Republic Windows) that they claim can’t pay it back. Would those commenters have had the workers leave without what it was owed to them? Apparently so. One response I received (from BT) included this:
Sometimes, when things go wrong, people are affected inequitably. These workers have the traditional avenues of unemployment claims and an established Union to rely on during their time of difficulty. In this sense, I don’t think they are leaving empty handed though they are certainly leaving with less than they deserve. It is unfortunate and we should learn from it.
Are there no prisons? …And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then? …I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course.
It’s been pretty well established that while Republic Windows and Doors LLC was winding down, setting up the showdown with it’s workers, the wife of the owner of Republic was forming a new company, Echo Windows LLC. In fact, that incorporation took place on November 18th. Then, on December 4th, the day that Republic announced the closure of it’s business, it was announced that Echo had purchased a division of window company Traco, and a factory in Iowa!
Pretty shady or just good business, depending on your point of view. I think it’s pretty shady, but I’ve seen plenty of comments noting that it’s their right to start another company and move to another state. Yeah…while leaving their current workers without the money or the healthcare benefits that they are due under law. Guess a little law-breaking
never hurt anyone is just good business.
But the question I continued to have was, who financed Echo Windows LLC? Or at least, who financed the purchase of Traco’s residential division and the factory in Iowa?
I’m not sure it will help anything to know the answer. But it sure has been hard to FIND the answer. Maybe I just don’t Google well enough.
But things are pointing to JP Morgan Chase as the financier of Echo WIndows LLC recent acquisition.
Why? Well, first it was announced that JP Morgan Chase had “stepped in” to offer partial financing of the laid-off workers severance, to the tune of about $400K. I couldn’t find out WHY they did that – the goodness of their heart? a charitable cause? they need new windows in their offices? – but there it was. Almost an asterisk in the news about the negotiations between Republic, BofA, and the union. Turns out they’re a part owner of Republic Windows. I did not know that.
Now I come across this article that mentions JP Morgan Chase again:
by Scott Creighton
The New York Times is reporting that the workers who staged that sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors have effectively won their standoff with Bank of America (financing bank) and JP Morgan Chase (40% owner) and they will be paid what they should have been paid last week as per the letter of the law.
“…the company owners (JP Morgan Chase) had formed a new window company, Echo Windows LLC, and bought a new plant in Red Oak, Iowa, where labor costs are cheaper…” New York Times
The message there seems to imply that JP Morgan Chase is an owner of Echo Windows LLC. When I checked the New York Times, all I could find was this article, which doesn’t say that at all.
got have a better clue than me? Does it matter? Should I even care?