Monday, December 8, 2008

Laid-Off Workers Occupy Factory in Chicago

Workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory got three days notice before being laid off. So, the members of the United Electrical Workers Union did what normal, rational people would do. They occupied it. The workers will not go home unless they have assurances they will be paid their severance and their vacation pay.

Under federal law the Company is required to give 60 days notice to its employees. They gave three days notice. Sounds about right, huh? The 250 union workers took turns on Saturday occupying the factory peacefully, while union leaders criticized a wall-street bailout that is leaving laborers behind. One such worker wore a hat that said: "you got bailed out, we got sold out." During the occupation the workers have been cleaning the building and shoveling the snow.

A union leader said the company can't pay its 300 employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."

Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement Saturday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees. I am not sure who is at fault here, but for too long business has been allowed to skirt the law while workers and laborers get screwed by their companies.

Depression era occupation is back. This is a tactic used in the depression to force companies to either unionize or force the government to realize a crisis was at hand. This is a sign of a very depressing economy that Robert Reich yesterday claimed, "we may need to start calling this a depression." While we are no where near what happened in the American Great Depression this is clearly more than a minor recession.

Workers were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, Fried said. Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

"We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she's owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory's workers are Hispanic.

And to show that change has truly come the President-elect Barack Obama responded accordingly. “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy. More on this here.

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