The Energy Debate: No Turning Back
by Tara Taffera
Our magazine has reported on the Republic Windows and Doors
story from the very beginning when the company abruptly announced it would
close its doors. And DWM followed it through its many twists and turns
including the recent arrest of its former CEO Richard Gillman (see in-depth
article on page 16). Through it all, I’ve been tempted to write a column
or a blog on the matter but have stayed silent—until today. I’m going
to focus on the workers of Echo Windows, who sometimes are forgotten in
this ongoing saga. DWM also investigated the Echo side of the story but
with everything swirling around Gillman, and the other Republic management
under investigation, those who served in Iowa at Echo Windows could easily
be forgotten. For a quick recap Echo Windows was the new company formed
by Gillman and formerly owned by TRACO. TRACO sold the residential part
of the business to Echo.
Echo’s workers weren’t unionized like Republic’s were. They didn’t engage
in a sit-in like Republic’s workers did. They weren’t ultimately awarded
the severance and vacation time due to them like Republic’s. And Serious
Materials didn’t come in and reopen their plant giving them hope for the
future. But they were treated just as unfairly as Republic’s union workers.
Many of the employees at the plant worked there for 14 years since the
TRACO facility opened.
In fact, I called one former Echo worker who couldn’t speak about the
situation to not “jeopardize our case at this time.” The employee was
speaking to the fact that employees have filed suit against Echo Windows,
TRACO and Red Oak Real Estate. According to court documents, the employees
allege that Echo violated the federal law that requires employers to give
their workers 60 days notice when they shut down. The employees also claim
that Echo failed to pay to plaintiffs their respective wages, vacation
pay, etc., for 60 calendar days following notice of their terminations.
That employee then told me, “You might want to see what, if anything,
TRACO knew about Mr. Gillman.”
We’ve tried but the company won’t comment on the case despite several
attempts on our part. TRACO’s Denise Abraham told me back in December
2008 that TRACO sold its residential division to Red Oak Real Estate and
that we’d have to contact them for questions. We did that. Of course they
never returned our numerous calls as Red Oak was tied to Republic.
On March 6, TRACO sued Red Oak Real Estate, saying that the plant’s owner
had “abandoned” the factory and its operations. Therefore, Red Oak Real
Estate was in breach of its mortgage with TRACO, according to an article
in the Chi-Town Daily News.
It seems very few people want to tie themslves to the train wreck that
is (or was) Republic Windows and Doors. Even suppliers I contacted who
were burned by Republic/Echo didn’t want to comment publicly about the
case. Still, I have a feeling even more details will come out concerning
this story. And as they do, please don’t forget those in Iowa who lost
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