Hope and Ka-ching

Hope and Ka-ching

The workers of New Era Windows Cooperative, along with Brendan Martin, at right, of the Working World. Credit: Arthur Bullers

By Astra Taylor
Originally posted by The Baffler.

Workers of the world apply here

Everyone is equal at New Era Windows Cooperative, a factory on the southwest side of Chicago. There is no owner to answer to because everyone is an owner; there are no outside shareholders to choose a board of directors. There is no boss because the workers fired him.

I paid a visit to the New Era plant, housed in a towering building full of commercial warehouses, to celebrate its grand opening on May 9, 2013. The air was heavy with nervous anticipation and pride. Assigned to decorating duty, I noticed one of the workers, an older fellow who rarely spoke or smiled, redoing my handiwork, rearranging props so they framed the podium symmetrically and rehanging the New Era banner so it was perfectly straight and the knots were evenly spaced. By 3 p.m. about fifty people had arrived—friends and family, union representatives, and local officials—filling a room that had been dark and cavernous only a few months before. The workers had installed lighting and painted the walls, mapped and cut drains in the cement floor, rigged the wiring, and transported massive window-building machines from across town on their own, saving themselves the tens of thousands of dollars it would have cost to hire outside movers. “We used to make windows, and now we can make factories,” said Melvin “Ricky” Maclin, who grew up a sharecropper in Tennessee. When it came time to cut the ribbon, all the workers lent a hand, an attempt to symbolize the difference between New Era and everywhere else they had worked.

Check out the rest of this great success story over at The Baffler.

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