Posted by: Patrick Barbanes | December 16, 2008

Echo Windows Workers Worry: Will Red Rock Be An Echo of Chicago?

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.

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