Obama's Broken Window Company — And His Larger, More Serious Damage

Readers who detect a disturbing echo from the past in the next several paragraphs aren't imagining things.

On February 23, a California-based company which owns a window manufacturing plant in Chicago announced that it would close the facility because of poor business conditions, specifically citing "ongoing economic challenges in construction and building products, collapse in demand for window products, difficulty in obtaining favorable lease terms, high leasing and utility costs and taxes, and a range of other factors."

The very next day, the company, Serious Energy, Inc., went all Orwell:

Members of the press received incomplete and incorrect information that Serious Energy would be closing the facility immediately. The Chicago plant remains open at this time, and the parties are working together to find a new owner if possible and explore all other options. Both UE and Serious Energy apologize for any resulting confusion.

"UE" is United Electrical Workers Union Local 1110. Serious Energy made no mention of what drove the change which it said wasn't a change but really was, namely that shortly after its original announcement, "about 65 people, mostly employees, locked themselves inside the 268,000-square-foot facility." In other words, the union and its workers re-occupied the plant.

That's right, they "re-occupied" it. The plant's original occupation, in many respects the precursor of the lawless Occupy movement which "somehow" appeared in September of last year, came in December 2008. That's when its then-owner, Republic Windows and Doors, having lost $10 million in the past two years, told employees that it would close the plant in three days. Workers "occupied the building," and said they wouldn't leave "without assurances they'll receive severance and vacation pay."

Bank of America, which had cut off the company's credit line because of its deteriorating financial condition, was unfortunately but understandably intimidated by the assemblage of politicians, activists, and leftist rabble which had gravitated to what they thought might be the start of a movement. As a result, six days later, it made "an additional loan" (the bank's words) of $1.35 million to make the problem go away. For some reason, J.P. Morgan Chase also "pledged" $400,000.

The Associated Press's headline called this result "successful." In reality, it may be the most costly $1.75 million shakedown ever conducted -- if not for the workers, certainly for their nation.

Here's a synopsis of the plant's subsequent history:

  • In mid-December 2008, Republic filed for bankruptcy.
  • Serious Energy bought the plant in February 2009.
  • In a March 2009 press release followed by an April visit, Vice President Joe Biden declared that the administration's stimulus plan would "increase demand for its products."
  • The $5 billion "weatherization" element of the stimulus plan which was supposedly going to keep the plant and other window makers going was "initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry." Since then, like Solyndra and so many of Team Obama's other "green energy" efforts, it has been an epic fail, accurately characterized as a "a complete cesspool of waste" by the conservative fiscal watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.
  • Despite the glowing promises, the union now says the company "never hired back more than 75" of the plant's workers.
  • Serious hasn't promised to keep the Chicago facility open, but has instead said it will spend 90 days from the date of its announcement trying to find a buyer -- and presumably installing really strong locks on its doors and gates.

That's not all. On February 22, the day before Serious's original closing announcement, the Federal Trade Commission trumpeted consent agreements it had obtained from five window manufacturers relating to their claims that consumers could cut their home energy bills by 40% to 50% with replacement windows alone (it's really more like 7% to 15%, according to Consumer Reports). One of the five? You guessed it. It seems quite likely that these companies' exaggerated claims were used as a basis for estimating how much energy savings the government's weatherization program would achieve. "Seriously," you can't make this stuff up.