Worker Owned Factory Opens In Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Northeast kingdom, Vermont: Two years ago all 120 Ethan Allan furniture factory workers, some laboring for more then 26 years for the company, where informed that their Island Pond factory would be closed down due to a corporate decision to consolidate production. At that point the entire workforce was informed that their jobs would be immediately eliminated. Under the watchful eye of local State Troopers, the workers were told to leave the premises.

This was a hard loss for a small isolated town of just 1300; a town located 20 miles from the nearest interstate, and 15 miles from the Quebec boarder. Not only were their jobs cut, but the likelihood of finding other work in the area was dim. Island Pond is situated in a region of high unemployment, with unofficial estimates reaching seasonal highs of above 15%. However, due to the ingenuity and hard work of former factory employees, hope again has been kindled in this northern town.

On Saturday, February 15th, 2003, laid-off workers officially opened their own furniture factory; Island Pond Woodworkers Inc. This operation is worker owned and operated, and will initially employ 12 former Ethan Allan employees, and hopes to bring that total up to 30 by next year. Being worker owned and operated, this factory will not be subject to arbitrary layoffs, closings, and wage cuts often associated with corporate greed.

The workers intend for the factory to fill a niche furniture market, producing environmentally friendly products. They will use waterborne finishes as compared to solvent-based finishes, and they plan to use wood that is harvested in sustainable manner.

The factory's first large order, $500,000, will be to produce study carrels for Vermont's Middlebury College. They are also slated to produce conference tables for Dartmouth College.