Saturday, December 27, 2008

IMPORTANT UPDATE TO - Article on Republic Occupation for Industrial Worker...

I was recently contacted by email in regards to some important errors in my article for the Industrial Worker on the Republic Windows factory occupation. Mark Meinster, an International Representative for UE and one of the main UE staff who helped support and guide the workers who decided to occupy Republic, read the version of the article I posted here on pilsenprole. He emailed me to make me aware of one outright error and some other items that were unclear in my article. I am reposting his comments here, along with explanations for my mistakes below so that readers will be aware of these inaccuracies in my original article. Mark’s comments are in italics…

1. First, regarding your sentence :"UE was expelled from the CIO in 1949 because of the leftist politics of much of the union’s leadership." As a student of labor history I'm sure you've read lots of material about the CIO split, but just for the record we (the UE) would point out that we quit the CIO before being expelled, primarily due to raiding by other large CIO affiliates.

I was aware that the UE had effectively withdrawn from the CIO a few months before it’s official expulsion by the CIO leadership in 1949, by refusing to pay dues to the organization in protest over raiding by other CIO unions and the right ward drift of CIO policy. The raids were clearly a purposeful strategy of conservative elements within the CIO to undermine the power of UE which was one of the largest unions in the CIO at the time. I abbreviated this slightly complicated history by just referencing the expulsion of UE by the CIO along with ten other CIO unions at the CIO’s 1949 convention, who were unwilling to follow the conservative direction pushed by the CIO’s leaders. I think this important because it is a critical point at which the CIO (and eventually the merged AFL-CIO) abandoned the social movement unionism that had proved so successful in the 1930’s. An important element of what the CIO abandoned in its move toward business unionism was the direct action tactics that I think the Republic occupation illustrates. It is certainly to the UE’s credit that it withdrew from the CIO in ’49 and their expulsion along with much of the best of the CIO that same year is no slight but instead should be seen as a source of pride.

2. You state that we have raided many Teamsters locals, but this is actually not the case. I know of no successful direct raids by UE on IBT. We did organize Lakewood Engineering, which had been in IBT 743, but had been non-union for 2 years before we won the election there. I think the union you are referring to is Chicago's very own Central States Joint Board, a separate union of mostly immigrant factory workers. This is a highly corrupt, Outfit-dominated organization we have taken on many times over the years. We "liberated" Republic's workers from this "union" in 2004. (Many people think they are related to the IBT because of the IBT's "Central States Pension Fund", but the two unions are unrelated.)

This was clearly an error on my part. I was not clear on the status of the Central States Joint Board. I had heard in the past that UE had raided do nothing, corrupt Teamster’s locals were the members were being poorly represented. I guess this was erroneous information and I had assumed that there was some connection between CSJB and the Teamsters. I apologize for this error. I also want to be clear that I was not using the term ‘raiding” in a pejorative sense in this case and I full agree with the sentiment behind Mark’s use of the more accurate term “liberated.”

3. You also state that we dismissed the idea of getting the plant re-opened early on in the campaign. This is not actually the case. Though it's true to say that as our leverage increased with each passing day the goal of re-opening the plant became more plausible, from the beginning we held that our two goals were to re-open the plant or, in the event of a closure, that the workers be paid what they were owed under the law. It would, however, be accurate to state that we felt the latter was more likely than the former.

My comments on the issue of re-opening the plant was based on conversations I had with workers and UE staff on Friday, the first day of the occupation. The workers I talked to all stated that they did not think the plant could be re-opened and that they were therefore simply fighting for the severance the company owed them. The UE staff I talked to that day never mentioned re-opening the factory as a goal of the occupation. I asked the workers directly if re-opening was a possibility and was told no by ever worker I talked to. In the case of the UE staff, I never asked the question directly, but had the strong impression that everyone involved in the occupation thought the re-opening the plant was not a realistic option. That is why when I started to hear UE staff mention the possibility privately on Sunday, I was surprised. Carl Rosen’s comments at the Monday press conference where the first public statement I am aware of that re-opening the factory had been made a goal of the occupation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Article on Republic Occupation for Industrial Worker...

This is an un-edited version of an article I submitted to the IWW's newspaper, The Industrial Worker. The edited version will appear in the January issue. I have referenced this article a number of times on Labor Express Radio and with activist involved in the Republic occupation, so I didn't want to wait for the published version to come out before making it available here...

Factory Occupation Brings Quick Results:

Labor battles are most often measured in months. Some, like the Congress Hotel strike in Chicago or the recently successful effort to win union recognition at Smithfield Foods in North Carolina, have stretched on for years. Both have been extraordinary models of corporate campaigns and have successfully mobilized community allies, but this alone was not enough to bring a quick victory. When the struggle is over severance pay because of a factory closure, the matter often ends up resulting in a long drawn out legal battle. But it took the workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago a mere six days to defeat a recalcitrant employer, one of the nation’s biggest banking corporations, and to win all of their demands. The success of the workers at Republic, members of United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110, has raised the stakes for corporate America and raised the bar for labor unions across the country.

When the workers at Republic Windows and Doors first organized into UE, it was a significant development for the local labor movement. A mostly African-American and immigrant Latino work force had dumped a company union that had agreed to a wage freeze and had allowed dozens of workers to be fired without protest. It was an important gain for UE, which calls itself the “independent”, “rank-and-file”, “member run union.” UE was expelled from the CIO in 1949 because of the leftist politics of much of the union’s leadership. Though small in membership relative to other unions, UE has continued to hold fast to the principals of militant, democratic unionism and in doing so has had an impact beyond its numbers much like the IWW. The organizing of Republic in 2004 was part of a growth spurt for the union in the Midwest and demonstrated its commitment to organize small manufacturing, a sector abandon by many other unions. Little did the organizers or members know that Republic Windows and Doors would make national labor history four years later.

The decision to occupy the factory:

Workers had suspected for a couple weeks that something was wrong. As Melvin Maclin, Vice-President of Local 1110 and a seven year employee of Republic explained, “we’ve had a lot of our machines taken out of the plant at night…and along with the machine goes people’s jobs.” The workers contacted their union representatives who in turn questioned the company about the situation but got few answers. Workers even set up patrols to try to follow trucks leaving the factory with equipment so they could attempt to determine where the materials were going. Despite this, when company management announced Tuesday, December 2nd, that the plant would close its doors at 10:00 AM the following Friday morning, the workers were shocked. What’s worse, the workers discovered that they would not be paid for accrued vacation time, or for the 60 days notice they should have been given under the federal WARN Act. The WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) guarantees workers 60 days notice of a company’s intention to cease operations. The workers had few options and little time to react. Their first effort was to reach out to community allies. Jobs with Justice helped the union organize an afternoon press conference on Wednesday December 3rd outside Bank of America’s Chicago headquarters. Company management claimed the reason they had decided to close the plant and the reason they could not pay the workers their severance was because Bank of America had cut off their credit. Speakers at the press conference focused on the fact that Bank of America had been provided 25 billion in taxpayer dollars by the federal government as part of the 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout. They asked Bank of America why, if the intention of these funds was to ensure the flow of credit to keep the economy running, the bank wasn’t using a small fraction of its bailout funds to ensure Republic could meet its obligations to its workers? As Melvin Maclin explains, “We have a saying, you got bailed out, we got sold out.”

But the press conference and the mobilization of community support was just the beginning of the worker’s efforts to fight back. They were particularly concerned that the owners of Republic would remove or sell off the remaining machinery at the plant before they agreed to pay the workers their severance. So at closing time, the workers refused to leave the plant. In doing so, these workers launched the first factory occupation in the United States since the late 1930’s. For the workers, the decision was simple and was reached unanimously fairly quickly. As worker Ricardo Caceres explains, “I no have any choice. The company say, you fired. The company not give me the money for benefit and vacation time. You know what, I not lose anything I stay here and I say, you don’t pay me, I don’t move.” All the workers I spoke to during the occupation at Republic expressed the same sentiment – we had no choice and nothing to lose.

As word of the occupation spread Friday night, supporters began showing up at the factory’s entrance almost instantly, bearing gifts of food, coffee, blankets and sleeping bags. Those who came signed posters taped up to the factories walls with messages like… “Thanks for showing us all how to fight back” and “You are an inspiration to us all.” A Saturday prayer vigil became more of a rally, with hundreds of supporters showing up to demonstrate their solidarity. Press coverage reached a level rarely witnessed over a “labor dispute.” T.V. crew trucks remained parked in front of the factory for most of the six day occupation. A check of Google news for stories on the situation on Sunday had turned up over six hundred hits. That number was in the thousands by Tuesday. And workers began to receive statements of solidarity from as far away as France and Argentina, places in which factory occupations are a much more familiar form of working class struggle.

The bold action of the workers at Republic had struck a deep chord. Working people and the organizations that represent them have been taking it on the chin for at least the past thirty years. We have witnessed the majority of labor battles end in defeat. We have also witnessed union after union accept concessions or push cooperation with management as the only avenue to improve the lot of working people. Than we witnessed the collapse of the ruling neo-liberal economic ideology over the past few months as the country was plunged into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We witnessed corporate America’s answer to the crisis, 700 billion dollars in taxpayer bailout funds to the banks who had created the crisis to begin with. Public anger has grown as the funds provided to the banks have proved not to be the answer to preventing a deepening recession. The Republic workers action was the first sign of a working class answer to the economic crisis.

The IWW was among the first workers organizations to respond. Wobblies were on the scene as early as Friday evening. Wobs had a substantial presence at the prayer-vigil-turned-rally was held mid day Saturday. Members of the Chicago GMB organized a Republic Workers Solidarity Committee while members in Minneapolis and San Francisco organized solidarity actions. A caravan of Wobblies from St. Louis made the six hour trip to Chicago to demonstrate their solidarity. In general, union support for the Republic workers was widespread. SEIU, the Teamsters, AFSCME, UNITE-HERE, UAW and UFCW all provided both moral and material support. Unions donated thousands of dollars to a solidarity fund. The cross union solidarity was inspiring but also ironic. Much of the mainstream labor movement has had little respect for UE in the past. SEIU’s increasingly centralized and top down organizational model contrasts sharply with the UE’s member-run union approach. UE has frequently raided Teamster organized plants where the union was poorly representing the workers, as in the example of Republic in 2004. Witnessing these unions paying homage to UE was a symbolic victory for militant, democratic unionism.

By Monday, the politicians had taken note of the mass appeal of the occupation. Fifteen Chicago aldermen declared their support for a proposed City Council resolution calling on the city to divest from Bank of America if the bank refused to offer more credit to Republic’s owners so that they could meet their obligations to their workers. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich announced that he would direct the state to do the same. At the beginning of the occupation, the workers and UE organizers had dismissed the idea that the plant could be saved, but on Monday, UE Western Region President Carl Rosen announced that he was working with various agencies to find a way to re-open Republic under new management.

Victory for Direct Action:

The occupation had put serious pressure on the company and the bank to negotiate from the very beginning. The scale of public and political support for the workers made the eventual success of their fight for legally mandated severance and vacation pay inevitable. But nearly everyone - the workers, the organizers, their supporters, even the politicians - agrees that if the workers had not decided to occupy the factory, the struggle would never have received the attention it did and success would have been much harder to achieve. As Leah Fried, an organizer with UE explains… “When we found out what was happening, we said look, here are some options - we can stay and fight or basically sit back and hope something will happen out of a lawsuit, and our recommendation is to fight. And the workers said, yeah we want to fight and we are going to do everything it takes.” Shortly after their victory was announced, Maclin and fellow Republic worker Ron Bender were even more blunt when they responded in near unison to the question of whether they could have accomplished what they did if they hadn’t decided to employ direct action: “No! No! No Way! I don’t even have to think about that. No, we would have been out the door.” At the massive rally held outside Bank of America’s main Chicago offices just hours before the workers announced their victory, speaker after speaker emphasized the importance of the worker’s bold move. Members of the UAW who spoke reminded those assembled that they were pioneers of the sit down strike in U.S. history and seemed to indicate that their union needed to return to its roots.

But the big question is whether the occupation of Republic Windows and Doors is just the beginning of a working class fight, a resurgence of the U.S. labor movement. UE staff was certainly aware of the historic import of what the workers were doing. Mark Meinster, International Representative for UE remarked in an interview, “Hopefully this spreads…this is also a fight for the working class as well, and so we really feel like we’ve got an obligation to working class people to win this fight…because of what it could mean for workers in this country.” UE organizer Leticia Marquez echoed Mark’s words, stating, “I just hope honestly that we will see more of this action taken…I just hope that we do see more workers in some way or another, unfortunately having to violate the law. Employers do that every single day, so workers decided to not wait to get a remedy months or years from now. They wanted to take action today, get an answer today.” But the challenges to employing this strategy can’t be underestimated. Larry Spivak, Regional Director of AFSCME Council 31 and President of the Illinois Labor History Society, on the eve of the workers victory was clear on this point, “…it takes a huge amount of courage and the workers here were forced to the brink. Whether or not there are situations like this where workers say ‘hey we can begin to do this’ or ‘we should do this,’ I wouldn’t predict one way or another because in some ways there is a lot of risk involved… But what I am excited about is that Americans are excited and believe this is a good thing.” Of course the greatest risk of all is possible arrest, or worse, by the police. In the case of Republic, Alderman Scott Waguespack of Chicago’s 32nd Ward, where the plant is located, intervened early on to prevent an overreaction by the police. The company itself apparently never asked for the workers to be removed according to public statements by the police. The intense press coverage and public scrutiny was most likely a factor in their decision. Future plant occupiers are not likely to be as lucky.

So it remains to be seen, is the Republic Windows & Doors factory occupation a flash in the pan or a prairie fire? It seems that the workers at Republic certainly have provided the spark, but it may be awhile before we know if it will ignite a fire.

National Call-In Day for HR 676, Single-Payer Healthcare...

TODAY: National Call-In Day for HR 676, Single-Payer Healthcare

United For Peace and Justice urges you to participate in today's nationwide day of calls to members of Congress on the issue of healthcare.

Initiated by the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care -- a nation-wide effort to support HR 676, a Medicare for All/Single Payer Healthcare bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers -- today's Congressional call-in is focused on reaching the members of Congress in their home/district offices. The point of these calls is to ask your members of Congress to sign on as a sponsor to HR 676. To find who your representative is go to

In addition to your own representative, please contact Senator Ted Kennedy's office by phone at 617-565-3170 or by fax at 617-565-3183. He is preparing health care legislation. Tell him that you support Conyers' bill HR 676 -- and that expanding the Massachusetts model nationally is not comprehensive enough.

When you call your Congressional office, make sure your message gets through by asking for the Chief of Staff or the legislative aide who handles health issues. Though we can rarely talk directly to our representatives, we should avoid simply leaving a message with the person who answers the phone.

Healthcare reform is going to be up immediately when the new Congress is seated on January 6th, so these calls are very important if we are going to get meaningful comprehensive reform.

And be sure to remind your elected officials that ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is one way to bring more money back into our national treasury. Instead of warfare, we need healthcare -- now!


Tips for Single-Payer Healthcare Activists participating in this effort:

We want to reach every member of Congress with our message. Current cosponsors of HR 676 should be thanked for their support and encouraged to be more active in support of this legislation. Non-cosponsors should be asked to get on board with HR 676 ASAP. Find the co-sponsors here.

Keeping calls brief and to the point is best and makes logging the issue and sending a clear message to Congressional members much more efficient.

Should the Congressional office want more information, you may give them Rep. Conyers' contact information or Healthcare-NOW!'s information.

Please keep track of your outreach efforts -- especially reactions to the calls that your members may note. All of this information is critical as we track the support in Congress for HR 676. Please report back about the Call-In day to Healthcare-NOW!.

How to contact your representative: You can find your representative's contact information here. We recommend calling and/or faxing on this day to get your message through. If possible, request to speak to the Chief of Staff or Health Care Aide, rather than leaving the message with whomever answers the phone.

Draft scripts:

HR 676 Co-sponsor call:

Hi, my name is _____________________. I am calling to thank Representative ___________________ for his/her support of HR 676, John Conyers' National Health Insurance Act. Rep. Conyers plans to reintroduce HR 676 shortly after the Congress is back in session in January, but I want to reaffirm my support for HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation and ask Rep. ____________________ to do the same by signing on again as a co-sponsor working for true reform of this terrible healthcare system. I say no to Massachusetts-style health care, and yes to single payer health care as proposed in HR 676. Single payer gives more freedom of choice and access to quality care for patients and it is the most economical way to make sure we all can access care when we need it. Now is the time to give the gift of healthcare for all to everyone in this country. Happy holidays and thank you. If you have any questions about single payer or about me, please call me at __________________.

Non-co-sponsor call:

Hi, my name is _________. I am calling to urge Representative ___________________ to support of HR 676, John Conyers' National Health Insurance Act. Rep. Conyers plans to reintroduce HR 676 shortly after the Congress is back in session in January, and I want to reaffirm my support for HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation and ask Rep. ____________________ to do the same by signing on as a co-sponsor and working for true reform of this terrible healthcare system. I say no to Massachusetts-style health care, and yes to single payer health care as proposed in HR 676. Single payer gives more freedom of choice and access to quality care for patients and it is the most economical way to make sure we all can access care when we need it. Now is the time to give the gift of healthcare for all to everyone in this country. Happy holidays and thank you. If you have any questions about single payer or about me, please call me at __________________.

Message to Senator Kennedy:

Hi, my name is __________. I am calling to urge Senator Kennedy to make his proposed legislation for health care reform single-payer. The current reform in Massachusetts is leaving thousands uninsured and is far too expensive to be sustained because it leaves profit in the middle of our health care system. In the most recent election, local ballot initiatives supporting single payer and opposing individual mandates passed by landslide margins in all ten legislative districts where they appeared. With almost all precincts tallied, roughly 73 percent of 181,000 voters in the ten districts voted YES in support of a single-payer system. Say no to Massachusetts-style health care, and yes to single payer health care as proposed in HR 676. Happy holidays and thank you. If you have any questions about single payer or about me, please call me at __________________.


PO Box 607; Times Square Station; New York, NY 10108

The Results of CAFTA...

Here is one of the first stories I have seen about the use of CAFTA (the Central America Free Trade Agreement) by a corporation to bully a signatory nation into changing it's laws or cough up millions of dollars in damages. We have seen this repeatedly with NAFTA. These investor-to-state rights provisions of these trade agreements are incredibly anti-democratic and one of the most dangerous elements of these agreements. This is from a CISPES update...

On December 9, 2008, Canadian-based Pacific Rim Mining Corp. filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to begin arbitration proceedings against the government of El Salvador . The NOI was filed under Central America-Dominican Republic-United States of America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) laws, and serves as the first step in opening up legal proceedings against El Salvador (Canada is not a member of CAFTA but the arbitration would be filed under its US-based subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman.) The company and country will have 90 days to amicably resolve their dispute. If no resolution is reached by March 9, 2009 – just six days before the Salvadoran presidential election — Pacific Rim can then open arbitration proceedings under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States and under the Rules of Procedure for Arbitration Proceedings of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)—an affiliate of the World Bank.

Pacific Rim maintains that it has invested over $75 million dollars in the El Dorado mining project and that there is potential for huge returns and the creation of new jobs. The company claims that, despite its compliance with all laws, the government of El Salvador has failed to grant the permits to begin to exploit the gold and silver mine. An eventual lawsuit is expected to demand several hundred million dollars in damages from El Salvador , an amount that would further damage a country that is already in a dire economic situation, in part due to the effects of the CAFTA-DR accord.

Citizens' organizations in El Salvador have come out very strongly against mining, and specifically against the El Dorado project. Environmentalists contend that the project would lead to acid drainage, water pollution, and the evaporation of cyanide, thus devastating the environment and public health. The “I Reject Metal Mining” campaign is a combined effort of a broad spectrum of environmental, labor rights, and community organizations that has held many demonstrations and educational events throughout the country. Some political analysts have suggested that the timing of the NOI, putting the end of the 90-day grace period just days before the presidential elections, opens the possibility that the governing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party could claim that a victory by the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party would open El Salvador to losing the several hundred million dollar lawsuit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Urgent call for solidarity with Mexican miners...

Reprinted from ILC International Newsletter No. 316, Dec. 17, 2008

The National Union of Mineworkers, Steelworkers, Steelmakers and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) is being subjected to fierce repression by the fraudulent government of Felipe Calderon and by the Grupo México, the mining monopoly that seeks to destroy the union. What is the mineworkers" crime? It"s defending the right of workers to decide who their leaders should be without government interference; it"s defending their collective-bargaining agreement.

On December 4, Carlos Pavon Campos, Secretary for Political Affairs of the mineworkers" union, was arrested in Mexico City. He was immediately transferred to the city of Monclova in the state of Coahuila (in the north), on charges of alleged fraud. The day before, Juan Linares Montufar, president of the union"s Main Committee of Vigilance, was transferred to Mexico City. Linares Montufar had been arrested in the city of Morelia in the state of Michoacan.

A few weeks earlier, the government "froze" the bank accounts of the union. On December 9, a judge ruled "Illegal and non-existent" the mineworkers" strike in Cananea, Sonora. Those workers, together with mineworkers in Sombrerete and Taxco have been on strike for over a year to defend their working conditions and the existence of their union. Grupo Mexico has simply refused to negotiate with the union. Today [Dec. 13] the media report that 50 mineworkers in Cananea were issued arrest warrants.

The crackdown against the union began under the Fox administration (2000-2006) through the creation of "white [scab] unions" in opposition the National Union of Mineworkers. Legal charges were brought against Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, president of the union, who was forced to seek political asylum in Canada. The crackdown has intensified under the government of Felipe Calderon and has reached a level of absolute arbitrary force, outside legal norms, with the appointment by the government of Francisco Gomez Mont Urrueta, a man who had previously been the legal assessor of Grupo México, that is, the very company set on destroying the union.

The government aims to break the will of those fighting to defend the freedom of association and workers" conquests. The government does not tolerate the union"s demand that the circumstances of the deaths in the Pasta de Conchos mine (in the state of Coahuila) be clarified and the union"s demand for the recovery of the bodies (still buried deep underground) of the deceased workers in this mine.

All these repressive actions taken against the mineworkers" union are an indicator of what the government is preparing with the labor counter-reform it seeks to impose in 2009 (as announced by the Secretary of Labor). This new law aims to eliminate labor rights, to exert even greater pressure on the unions to impose individual and test contracts and to facilitate lay-offs.

The defense of the Mexican mineworkers" union requires the support of mineworkers and of all unions and union activists the world over. An urgent solidarity response is needed on an international with these embattled mineworkers.

We urge you to demand of the Mexican government:
* The immediate release of Carlos Pavon Campos and Juan Linares Montufar, leaders of the Union of mineworkers.
* The withdrawal of all arrest warrants against mineworkers in Cananea.
* The return of the bank accounts of the union.
* The strict observance of union autonomy and independence
* No to government interference in the internal affairs of the union
* Observance of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

Please send your petitions to:

LIC. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa,
Official Residence de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, CP 11850, Distrito Federal, MÉXICO
Telephone and fax: (55) 50935300

LIC. FERNANDO Francisco Gomez MONT Urueta
Bucareli 99, 1er piso Colonia Juarez CP 06699 México DF,
Fax: (00 52) 5 55 546 5350, (00 52) 5 55 546 7388

DR. José Luis Soberanes Fernández

Please send a copy of your letters to:

and to:

Salome Herber Aguilar:

and also please send a copy of your letter to

OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in
Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.

Friday, December 19, 2008

UPDATE: Proposed new Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis…

I have added a statement by Kim Bobo from Interfaith Worker Justice below...

Well, so far, everything I am hearing about Congresswoman Hilda Solis, Obama’s pick for Secretary of Labor, is positive. I have never heard of her before, but my wife who works for NALACC (the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities) has talked with members in California who know her well. They describe her as a strong advocate of immigrant workers. The AFL-CIO gave her a 97% pro labor voting record. Roberto Lovato on the Of America blog, in an article called…“Secretary of Labor Designate Hilda Solis: One to Celebrate” called it Obama’s “first progressive appointment.” Apparently Solis father was a union member (Teamsters) and her mother an assembly line worker. I just hope she’s not a relation of our pro-gentrification alderman Danny Solis (just joking). Below are the statements released today by the AFL-CIO and Change To Win. PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN COMMENTS WITH ANY ADDITIONAL INFO YOU MAY HAVE…

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
On the Selection of Rep. Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary
December 18, 2008

We're thrilled at the prospect of having Rep. Hilda Solis as our nation's next labor secretary. We're confident that she will return to the labor department one of its core missions - - to defend workers' basic rights in our nation's workplaces. She's proven to be a passionate leader and advocate for all working families - - in fact, she's voted with working men and women 97 percent of the time. The AFL-CIO looks forward to working with Rep. Solis as she charts new territory for our nation's working men and women.


WASHINGTON, DC – The following is a statement from Change to Win chair Anna Burger regarding reports that President-Elect Barack Obama will appoint Rep. Hilda Solis of California as the Secretary of Labor.

“Change to Win and its affiliated unions would welcome the appointment of Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, and would be excited to work with her to help restore the economy, rebuild the middle class and renew the American Dream. She would make the Labor Department an agency that once again protects and promotes the well-being of America’s working men and women. President-elect Obama promised to make government work for working Americans and the appointment of Hilda Solis would make that promise real.

“Solis has a life-long record as an advocate and activist for the cause and concerns of working Americans. She has fought to provide working families with a safe workplace, a healthy environment, a decent standard of living, affordable health care and equal opportunity. Congresswoman Solis does not just vote on behalf of workers, she is their unwavering and tireless voice. She has one of the strongest pro-worker voting records in Congress and is a sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.

“She has never forgotten where she comes from, and how she got to where she is today.

“As she said in support of the Employee Free Choice Act:

When union workers earn higher wages to support their families...It helps to provide a vibrant economy. It helps send their children, like me, a daughter of immigrants and a union household to college and eventually run for office. This is the American dream, and we should help realize that dream by supporting workers. “

Hilda Solis — Great Choice for Labor

Interfaith Worker Justice heartily affirms President-elect Obama’s choice of Congresswoman Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor.

“She’s just what the nation needs,” said Kim Bobo , IWJ’s Executive Director. “She has fought for green jobs, living wages and immigrant rights.”

Since its founding in 1996, Interfaith Worker Justice and its 20 affiliated workers centers have worked cooperatively with the Department of Labor in creating and distributing educational resources to workers, filing complaints about wage theft, pushing for targeted investigations of industries that exploit workers, and advocating innovative approaches to wage enforcement.

Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It, Bobo’s just-published book, outlines problems workers face in dealing with the Department of Labor and recommends a new vision for the department’s wage enforcement work…

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I have an article summing up the Republic Windows occupation saga on the Labor Notes website. Here is a teaser...

When managers informed the workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago that the plant would close in three days’ time, the announcement was no surprise.
Suspicion that something was wrong had been floating around the workplace for weeks before the December 2 announcement. “We’ve had a lot of our machines taken out of the plant at night,” said Melvin Maclin, vice president of United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110 and a seven-year employee. “And along with the machines go people’s jobs.”
... For more go to...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UPDATE: Fighting foreclosures in Chicago?

A number of people have been asking me if there is any effort in Chicago to fight foreclosures and evictions. I am not aware of any myself. A couple friends sent me this link to an organization in Michigan...

Should we have something like this here in Chicago? Is their any activity like this here that I am unaware of? Please post your comments and suggestions.

Carlos Fernandez from NALACC informed me...

"South Austin Coalition Community Council has been doing something, I've heard. Probably working with West Side ministers. I don't have any details and they're not on the web but in case anyone wants to follow up: (773) 287-9957"

Pakistani union federation calls for peace...

All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF):
Workers of Pakistan Need Peace. Peace Needs the Action of the Working Class

The APTUF is a trade union center which exists in an organized from in all regions of Pakistan.

We members of APTUF come from Punjab, from SIND, from Baluchistan, from North West Frontiers Province
We may speak different languages and have different cultures and religions -- but we all are members of the same trade union.

We all share these main concerns and demands:

- We want to keep our jobs and not be unemployed;
- We want wages that allow us to live and to raise our families, which means a legal minimum wage of RS. 10,000;
- We want respect of our rights as workers, which means first of all our right to organize in trade unions, whatever our trade; we want the right to strike and to collective bargaining;
- We want the right to assemble, demonstrate and freely express our views;- We want the abolition of anti-worker laws such as IRO- 2008, Essential Services Ordinance (Compulsory retirement);- We want safety of life.

Whatever province or region we come from, whatever our language, our religion or culture, we are all united in APTUF around these essential demands.

Are those demands not the demands of all the people of Pakistan -- of the workers, the farmers, the women, youth, the professionals?
But what do we see happening today in our country?
All the people of Pakistan are faced with violence, disruption and war.

In year 2008, there were 57 blasts in which 843 civilians and army persons were killed and 309 injured in the country as a result of military operations and bomb blasts.

800,000 people have left their residences in NWFP province and 3,50,000 in Baluchistan. They are living in camps where they lack proper food, water and shelter. They are living in miserable conditions.

The cost of the the War Against Terror in Pakistan has risen to RS. 678 billion. In fact, Pakistan is facing war conditions. But officially, there is no war. Pakistan is not at war with any other country.

The war is inside Pakistan and this violence threatens the country with dislocation.

We, the APTUF will be meeting in the national congress of our union on December 30th, 2008 in Lahore. We state solemnly:
No Pakistani worker, peasant, youth, women can accept this state of affairs.

All those who live and toil in Pakistan, whatever the problems they are facing, and whatever their differences, are able to solve these problems together and by themselves, in a peaceful way.
It is not the people of Pakistan, of Punjab, of SIND, of Baluchistan and of the NWFP who want war.
The violence that today is rampant all over the country does have its roots in Pakistan. It comes from outside.
With great concern we take note of the fact that the war waged in Afghanistan by NATO forces under American command has now entered into Pakistan/Daily, the integrity of the Pakistan territory is violated.
In the name of the never-ending war against terrorism, Pakistani men, women, and children are killed by NATO bombs and rockets.
The Pakistani people want peace in Pakistan, they want peace on their borders.
The APTUF calls for an immediate end to all military operations in Pakistan.
We repeat, the people all over Pakistan are able to peacefully overcome the problems they confront,but a prerequisite is the end to all foreign intervention in the affairs of Pakistan, and to all military aggression.

Violence and war are spreading. The daily situation of the great majority of the people has become intolerable:
- Hundreds and hundreds of factories have closed down, and tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs.
- Inflation is running at 300%. It becomes impossible for more and more families to buy the most basic goods.- Electricity is now shut down most of the days all over the country, including the main towns and cities.- It is no longer safe to go work, to go for walk, to go the market
- Instead of stepping up armament expenditures and building up military operations, it is those problems that should be faced.
To overcome the problems, the people of Pakistan need peace.

That is why the APTUF, convinced that it is acting as a responsible trade union for the good of its members and of the entire working class launches this solemn appeal addressed to all:
Peace in Pakistan! No foreign intervention!
The workers of Pakistan need and want peace!
Peace needs the action of the working class!

Gulzar Chaudhary General SecretaryAll Pakistan Trade Union Federation 14-N, Industrial Area, Gulberg II, Lahore

Bush passes anti-farm worker regulations in the middle of the night...

Ask President-Elect Obama not to let the outgoing Bush Admin Steal Farm Worker Protections. Find out more here...

Monday, December 15, 2008

UPDATE: I stand corrected…

I have double checked these figures. It is even less than orginally thought. The actually number is o.ooo7% (actually based on total funds loaned to Republic 1.75 million, not 1.7 million as I orginally stated - but $400,000 was contributed by Chase, so B of A itself contributed 1.71 million). It would be intresting to figure out an estimate of the interest the bank will likely make on its money (or our money I should say)..

My fellow Wobbly from Minneapolis took my challenge and calculated what percent of the 25 billion dollars Bank of America received in federal bailout money was spent to pay the workers at Republic Windows & Doors what they were due under law. His calculations come out to 0.0068 percent. So I feel I owe Congressman Gutierrez and B of A and apology for my previous sarcasm. I now see the light. B of A spent less than one hundredth of a percent of our taxpayer dollars to give the Republic workers what they were legally due and it may take them months, or perhaps years to get that money back from Republic management with interest. The generosity of B of A is truly astounding.

Does anyone want to double check Nate’s figures? Come on all you math whizzes out there.

Letter from our friends in the Iraq Freedom Congress...

Members of the Iraq Freedom Congress narrowly escaped a bombing in Kirkuk recently. The IFC, which is made up of Iraqi trade unions, women's organizations and other social movement groups describes it's mission as... "Working For a Democratic, Secular and Progressive Alternative to both the US Occupation and Political Islam in Iraq." They issued this letter to their supporters around the world...

Letter to all brothers and sisters


We have been receiving many phone calls and e-mails from Iraq and around the world after the bloody bombing in Kirkuk. People have asked about our health and dozens of visitors decided to come from different cities in Iraq to check on our well-being but we asked them not bear the hardship of travel.

First of all I would like through this letter to extend my condolences to the families of the victims. No words can ease their pain, but we support them in this great ordeal. We also express our profound thanks and appreciation to all who experienced anxious moments concerning our safety. We assure everyone Comrade Mohammed Aziz and I are fine and have miraculously survived the deafening explosion at Kirkuk's Abdullah restaurant. Our injuries are very minor compared to the dozens of children, women and young people who lost their lives or who were seriously wounded.

It was a truly horrific scene to see with your own eyes: flying bodies that were shattered here and there, including parts of your own, and the smell of gunpowder filling the place. People who only moments before sought only happiness were suddenly bleeding, mutilated, burned and their bodies dismembered. Those tragic scenes were more painful than our wounds, as we watched joy and laughter disappear from the faces of the people who came to spend a joyful time with their families in an oil rich city but poorest in the world. It's a city that stands on billions of dollars worth of oil but most of its population live under the poverty line.

Despite the allegations of the nationalists and the years they spent promoting racism, dozens of vehicles stopped to transfer the injured people to the hospital without asking whether they were Kurds, Arabs or Turkmen. Moreover, hundreds of people were standing at the hospital gate eager to donate blood to an extent that made us fear that someone else would blow himself up and cause more casualties. In other words, the sense of humanity was the main factor dominating the scene.

The only thing that the "enemies of life" sought in this terrible explosion was to kill innocent people and take the smiles off the faces of the children who had nothing to do with resisting the occupation and its puppets. My comrade Mohammad Aziz and I have always been against the occupation, have struggled against it alongside thousands of libertarians and yet we were targeted among the others. Would this act be called resistance had we were killed? However, I repeat that the occupation turned Iraq into a base for terrorists who brought insecurity to the citizens.

They are vampires and there is no argument or word or phrase that could accurately describe these criminals who enjoy killing. I always say to my comrades "It is possible for us to get killed in such accidents at any moment because we chose to stand against the occupation; we have decided to wage a war for our lives and the future of our generations." But what is the guilt of those innocent children, women and men, who chose not to fight any war, did not choose to take either side or join any party in this war? They wanted to live their lives despite the tragedy in the (new) Iraq where no dignity and value for lives seems to exist. What is the guilt of those children? They have fallen not knowing why criminals want their lives at any price!

In surviving this tragic incident my determination is increased to continue the struggle with my comrades and thousands of libertarians to expel the occupation and terrorist groups from Iraq and to continue the struggle to bring a life where human values are appreciated. The responsibility to put an end to the blood bath, to bring joy back to our children, and to restore hope to millions of families who seek a life without fear is placed on our shoulders.

Samir Adil

Amjad Al-Jawhary
of Iraq Freedom Congress

Friday, December 12, 2008

Republic Windows also stold our money via a TIF...

Here is a whole new aspect to the Republic Windows and Doors story. These crooks have robbed the taxpayer more than once. They also took $9.6 million in TIF subsides. Check out the link below for details (Thank you to Claudia and Carlos for cluing me in on this)...

CORE mobilizes...

From ChiTown Daily News...

As the possibility of another 2,000 teacher dismissals and layoffs draws nearer, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) is partnering with several advocacy groups in the city to bring attention to the matter... Read the rest here...,19766

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The times they are a FREAKING changing. Check out this news...

Final Press Conference Republic Factory Occupation...

Here is a complete audio recording of the final press conference of the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation. It is great to hear the excitement in the voices of Armando Robles, Melvin Maclin and the other workers. It is also great to hear Carl Rosen discuss the possibility of the factory being re-opened at some point in the future. The love fest between Congressman Gutierrez and Bank of America however is nauseating. Luis wants us to be grateful to Bank of America for spending a tiny fraction of our tax money to help the people our money should have gone to in the first place. Can someone who is better at math than I, please calculate what fraction of a percent 1.7 million is of 25 billion?

JWJ announcement of victory...

See here...

Video from Labor Beat on Republic Occupation...

Here is a video from Andrew at Labor Beat T.V. I will have audio from last night's victory announcement press conference up tonight...

LABOR BEAT- "Workers' Republic: Scenes From a Successful Factory Occupation"When the workers at Republic Windows and Doors were notified their factory would close in three days, they took matters into their own hands. The union work force seized control of the factory for 6 days to demand the severance they are by law owed. On the sixth day of their occupation, they won all their demands, and showed the world's working class a classic example of people power (something not seen in the USA for decades).This short video from Labor Beat represents a fraction of our coverage of this historic event. The full 30-minute episode, "Workers' Republic," will be uploaded soon.

Audio from last night at Republic occupation...

Free Speech Radio News, had asked me to submit a short montage audio clip of numerous people at the plant - workers, organizers and supporters – talking about the significance of the workers at Republic deciding to use the militant labor tactic of factory occupation, the first time this has been attempt in the U.S. since the late 1930's. Here is what I got...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I just returned from the victory at Republic Windows & Doors. I am too exhausted and I have too much work to do at the moment to provide a full I witness report. I will do that later. But here is the report from UE...

After the conclusion of negotiations Wednesday evening, the membership of Local 1110, more than 200 workers, met in the plant cafeteria to hear and consider the tentative settlement that had been worked out by UE negotiators over the past three days.

The settlement was approved by a unanimous vote.

'Justice - We Did It!'

Following the vote, the UE members, led by Local President Armando Robles, marched out of the plant, chanting “We did it!” in English and Spanish.

Pres. Robles stepped to the microphones outside the front entrance to the plant, where a throng of reporters and cameras had been waiting. He announced the end of the occupation and said that justice had been achieved.

UE Western Region President Carl Rosen then described the negotiations, summarized the settlement agreement, and commented on the significance of the struggle and the achievement.

Pay, Health Care, Vacation Pay

The settlement totals $1.75million. It will provide the workers with:

eight weeks of pay they are owed under the federal WARN Act;
provided with two months of continued health coverage, and;
pay for all accrued and unused vacation.
JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America

Third Party Fund

Although the money will be provided as a loan to Republic Windows and Doors, it will go directly into a third-party fund whose sole purpose is to pay the workers what is owed them.

As the Local 1110 leaders characterized the settlement, “We fought to make them pay what they owe us, and we won.”

'Historic Victory'

UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley spoke on behalf of the National Union, describing the outcome of the occupation as “a victory for workers everywhere,” and as “an historic victory for America’s labor movement.”

Kingsley went on to call the settlement “a win for all working men and women who face uncertainty, unfairness and job loss in a troubled economy.”

'The Window of Opportunity' Foundation
Kingsley then announced the creation of a new foundation, dedicated to reopening the plant. It will be initiated with seed money from the UE national union and the thousands of dollars of donations to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund that have come in from across the country and around the world in just the past five days.

Melvin Maclin of Local 1110 announced the name of the foundation, which was chosen by the workers themselves: the Window of Opportunity Fund. Maclin said that the fund will be open to receive donations from all friends of the Republic workers and supporters of their struggle.

Rosen introduced U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, praising the congressman for his tireless work in behalf of the Republic workers and indispensible role in bringing about the settlement. Gutierrez spoke at some length, and then introduced David Rudis, Illinois State President, Bank of America.

Report on solidarity action in Minneapolis...

This is from my fellow wobbly in Minneapolis...

This is a report from two friends up here in Minneapolis:

"We handed out leaflets to workers and passersby in front of the US Trust Building in Minneapolis. US Trust was recently bought our by Bank of America and now functions as their "Private Wealth Management Division." We got positive reactions from every single person who took a leaflet. A few of the people we talked to were being laid off themselves. Workers in this country are hungry for change, and increasingly ready for a fight.After about 20 minutes of leafletting, we took our message straight to the top. We rode the elevator to the 14th Floor of the US Trust Building, walked to the front desk of US Trust, and demanded a meeting with the President of the company. After a short back-and-forth with the secretary, she agreed to give the head of the office one of ourleaflets. We asked her to inform him that if the situation was notresolved in favor of the workers of Republic Window and Door, that wewould be returning with a large group and setting up a picket line in front of the building.This past July, Bank of America purchased US Trust from Charles Schwab for $3.3 Billion in 2007. The resulting entity is the largest manager of private wealth in the United States.

Workers solidarity in action...

Check this out...

Cost of auto workers graphic...

From the NY Times (thanks Teo for posting this)...

What this really shows is how much national, single payer health care is key to solving the crisis with the U.S. auto industry. We should not be celebrating the wage rates for new hires represented by the third bar in the graphic. What that means is it will be all the harder to organize the transplants, when union membership offers a minimal wage differential. Of course if the U.S. auto industry does not receive the federal funds it needs, disappears, and takes the UAW with it, those transplant wage rates are going to drop like a stone.

Solidarity Actions Still On!!!...

Hi All,

I have received a couple questions whether solidarity actions are still on for the Republic workers as an settlement has not yet been reached. YES!!! Here are the details on today's action...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Time: 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: Bank of America Headquarters
Street: 231 S. LaSalle

- Support workers at Republic Windows and Doors and their sit-in.

- Stop foreclosures and save housing.

Bank of America took $25 billion from the Wall Street Bailout. Like others, they have resisted investing in jobs, housing and the other needs of the Main Street economy. Instead, Bank of America, like the rest of them, is buying other banks, investing in foreign projects and paying their executives big bonuses.

At the rally will be people facing the crisis: workers occupying Republic Windows and Doors; families being evicted due to foreclosure by Bank of America; and other people fighting back and demanding a People's Bailout.

No final agreement reached in Republic negotiations...

December 9, 2008

Negotiations will resume tomorrow as the parties continue to work towards an agreement. Progress was made, and the bank and the Union are bargaining in good faith. The parties will reconvene tomorrow at 1pm.

There are still important details to be worked out before the parties can reach an agreement. Workers will then vote on the tentative agreement.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Status of negotiations between UE and Bank of America...

Here is the official word from Leah Fried at UE (I guess the Trib jumped the gun)...

Status of negotiations between UE and Bank of America:

Negotiations between Bank of America, the UE Committee and the company are still in progress. No settlement has been reached. Bank of America informed us they had sent out a statement accidentally. Any statement regarding the result of negotiations at this time is premature. When the meeting concludes, the UE committee will return to the factory and report on any progress. Because UE is a democratic organization, only the 200 plus workers currently occupying Republic Windows and Doors will decide if a settlement is acceptable by a democratic vote. We will inform you of any changes.

BREAKING NEWS - Republic Workers Win???...,0,2473688.story

Auto industry bailout...

Though the situation at Republic deserves our sustained focus, the possible death of the auto industry should not escape our attention...

Congress is moving toward an agreement to provide emergency bridge loans for domestic automakers, but significant roadblocks remain. These loans are urgently needed to avoid a collapse of our U.S. auto industry, which would send shockwaves across our entire economy and deepen the current recession.

To protect America’s workers in this economic crisis, we need your immediate help. Members of Congress need to hear from you directly. Call your senators today and make sure they get the message: Provide emergency bridge loans to the auto industry.

Call Dick Durbin and Barack Obama via the Capitol Switchboard today at (202) 224-3121

To make your call as effective as possible, keep your message short and direct and begin by making it clear that you support providing an emergency bridge loan to the U.S. auto industry to protect American jobs. Communicating this simple message is enough, but if you’d like to provide additional information for why you support an emergency bridge loan, here are some talking points you can use.

According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute:

Nearly 2 million jobs have been slashed already this year, and we could lose 3 million more if emergency loans for the auto industry are not approved.

If the auto industry is not rescued, jobs could be lost in all 50 states, including workers at parts suppliers and in dozens of supporting industries, not just workers in the Midwest.

Any emergency bridge loan should include requirements that will protect the taxpayers, and ensure accountability and the long-term viability of the domestic auto companies.

Thanks again for your support of America’s workers in this time of need, and please call your senators today at (202) 224-3121.

Working America, AFL-CIO

P.S. Literally millions of jobs are at stake. Senators need to hear from their constituents. Make the call today: (202) 224-3121.

Update on police situation at Republic...

This is from Patrick with the IWW, thank you for this update (and thank you to all the Wobs, SDS, Food not Bombs and others that should up to protect the workers)...

Apparently police showed up around 9am, towed some cars that were parked along the road (Hickory), but did not in any way interfere with the occupation. A member of our ad hoc Republic Workers Solidarity Committee (which includes members of IWW, SDS, Food not Bombs, and many other local groups) received word this morning that media had left the factory en masse to cover Blagojevich's arrest - and that people should come immediately to make sure the workers were not left without a shield. About forty of us responded to this call, arriving at the factory around 11am. At that point, police were long gone, and there was no sign that the workers were in danger. (In fact, spirits were high, and some media had already returned to the site.) Shortly after, at noon, a vigil was held by the interfaith committee - the turnout for which was greatly increased by the forty wobs and assorted radicals who had come out in response to the urgent morning alert.

Apology to readers...

I want to offer a quick apology to all those who have been trying to contact me, especially by phone. I know I haven’t been able to keep up with all your calls and questions. I also am sorry that I haven’t been more helpful to those who have made some terrific suggestions like setting up a live national feed through Indymedia or linking up with some of the more widely read blogs. In all honesty I am a bit exhausted by the last few days, and I still have a lot of work to do. I am working on a Labor Notes article with a Tuesday deadline which is going to keep me up late, and I can’t miss anymore work. For those of you who may not know, Labor Express and pilsenprole are purely volunteer projects and I need to maintain my full time job as well.

So keep the calls and suggestions coming, but please understand if I can not respond in a more timely fashion.

In Solidarity,
Jerry Mead-Lucero

Police at Republic???...

I am getting unconfirmed reports that police have shown up at Republic Windows & Doors. Can anyone confirm this and provide an update?

John Sweeney supports Republic workers...

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
In Support of Striking Chicago Factory Workers
At Republic Windows and Doors
December 9, 2008

The 10 million members of the AFL-CIO stand in solidarity with over 200 members of the United Electrical Workers who, in championing their own rights, are taking on the rampant corporate abuse of workers across this country during dire economic times. These workers' peaceful occupation of the shuttered Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago has put Washington and Wall Street on notice that working people have had enough. We applaud President-elect Barack Obama's support for the workers' demands to receive the vacation time and severance pay that they have earned. Republic and its creditors should meet immediately with these workers to honor their reasonable demands.

Our nation cannot afford to bail out banks and investment firms while leaving workers behind. Only weeks after taking $25 billion in federal bailout money, Bank of America has refused to extend a line of credit to Republic, preventing the workers from either keeping their jobs or receiving severance pay. Bank of America's deplorable behavior is but one symptom of a financial industry that sets its bottom line above the heads of working people. Like so many Wall Street titans, Bank of America took billions in government handouts on the premise that they would extend credit to businesses so that working people could keep their jobs. The striking workers at the Republic plant are rightfully holding them to their promise.

No worker should have to face the loss of his or her job with three days' notice, especially in the midst of the holiday season. As millions of our fellow Americans struggle to make ends meet this winter without a job, Congress cannot afford to remain complacent any longer. Working families are in urgent need of a major jobs-producing economic stimulus now. If our leaders are serious about saving the middle class, then we need an economic agenda that will support good, green jobs like the ones at Republic and hold our financial institutions accountable for their actions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mark Meinster Day 4 of Republic Occupation...

Negotiations between the UE, the management of Republic Windows & Doors and Bank of America ended without a resolution on Day 4 of the workers occupation. Mark Meinster, International Representative for UE talks about the state of the struggle to win the Republic workers their just due...

Audio from rally today outside La Vilita BofA branch..

Jorge Mujica at rally at the Bank of America branch in the Chicago neighborhood of La Villta. Supporters of the workers occupying Republic Windows & Doors held the protest, threatening that members of the Latino community will pull their money out of Bank of America if the company refuses to ensure the Republic workers are paid what they are due under law...

Details on Wednesday's rally...

Save Jobs and Housing: Demand a People's Bailout Now!

Bank of America and Wall street got bailed out. Workers, homeowners and Main Street got sold out.

Chicago Jobs with Justice, in coordination with community, labor and faith partners, is calling all supporters to:

Wednesday, December 10 at 12 noon
Bank of America Headquarters
231 S. LaSalle

Support workers at Republic Windows and Doors and their sit-in.
Stop foreclosures and save housing.
Bank of America took $25 billion from the Wall Street Bailout. Like others, they have resisted investing in jobs, housing and the other needs of the Main Street economy. Instead, Bank of America, like the rest of them, is buying other banks, investing in foreign projects and paying their executives big bonuses.

At the rally will be people facing the crisis: workers occupying Republic Windows and Doors; families being evicted due to foreclosure by Bank of America; and other people fighting back and demanding a People's Bailout.

Audio from today's press conference...

Below are links to audio from today's press conference at City Hall on the ongoing worker occupation of Republic Windows & Doors. The first is Alderman Joe Moore, explaining that 15 alderman are urging the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution calling for the City to divest from Bank of America if the bank refuses to extend credit to the owners of Republic Windows & Doors so that they can pay the workers their severance. The second piece of audio is Carl Rosen, President of the Western Region of the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) announcing at the press conference that the union is seeking a means to keep the factory in operation under new management…

New action planned outside Republic tomorrow...

Religious Leaders to Join Workers at Occupied Factory
Interfaith Clergy Lend Moral Support to Republic Windows Employees in Historic Action, Call Attention to National Crisis of "Wage Theft"

The leading national organization bringing religious traditions to bear on issues of labor, Interfaith Worker Justice, and its local affiliate, the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues, will hold a press conference tomorrow — Tuesday, December 9th —at 12:00 PM in front of the shut-down Republic Windows and Doors company, whose employees have been occupying the factory since Friday to demand unpaid wages.

According to federal law — specifically, the WARN Act (the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) — the Republic workers are owed pay for their lost vacation days and severance for the 60 days advance notice they are guaranteed but are being denied. Republic's failure to meet this legal obligation is a salient example of wage theft — a rampant practice about which Kim Bobo, IWJ's executive director, has just authored a major book, Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It.

With IWJ's national Board of Directors convening in Chicago this week, religious leaders from across the country — representing numerous faith traditions — will be at the press conference and available for questions.

Republic Windows and Doors, 1333 N. Hickory (near the intersection of Division & Elston)

Tuesday, December 9, 12:00 PM

Members of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Worker Justice and members of the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues

Members of the press interested in receiving a review copy of Kim Bobo's Wage Theft in America should e-mail Danny Postel, Communications Coordinator for Interfaith Worker Justice, at

State of Illinois also threatens BofA...

Sorry, this escaped my attention earlier. Thank you to Dick Reilly for this...

Breaking: Governor pressures bank in worker sit-in
CLTV-WGN 9- Chicago Tribune
[ ]

Chicago Alderman Aim to End City Business with Bank of America
UE News Update
[ ]

More on Republic Windows plans to move to Iowa...

Check out this blog, it has a lot more info on the owners of Republic Windows & Doors plans to move operations to Iowa...

The new company is apparently called Echo Windows and bought a facility in Iowa that was called TRACO. It is the labor practices at TRACO that are the evidence that workers will be paid $9 an hour (almost half what workers at Republic make) and have little in the way of benefits. I am expecting a more complete story on this sometime soon on the ChiTown News website...


Well we expected big news today and we got it...

1. 15 aldermen have proposed the City Council of Chicago pass a resolution that the city stop doing business with Bank of America if they do not ensure the workers get what is due them.

2. Carl Rosen, President of UE Western Division officially called for the plant to be re-opened under new management and stated that he is working with various public agencies to make this possible.

In the mean time, it has been revealed that Republic planned to move operations to Iowa under a new name. The Iowa plant would be non-union, pay around $9.00 an hour, with limited benefits. Workers would need to work three years before receiving vacation pay.

I will try to get the full text of the proposed City Council resolution posted here as soon as I can.

I will also have pictures shortly.

Republic had planned to move to Iowa...

It is confirmed that Republic planned to move operations to Iowa, to a plant were the workers were going to be paid almost half what they make in Chicago and almost no benefits. ChiTown news should have a full story up soon. I will post more as I get it.

The Dec. 7th Labor Express Radio program focusing on the occupation...

Go here to download the program...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Updates on the situation at Republic Windows...

Hi All,

I am reporting at this moment from the worker occupied Republic Windows factory in Chicago.

I don't have any new audio for you yet but I do have some new news items...

1. Unofficial word is that there seems to be a strong likelihood the company had planned to close and move operations out of state. The workers had feared this since the equipment was removed from the factory a few weeks ago. UE staff have been investigating the situation and may have turned up evidence that this was the company's plan. This is a tried and true tactic of many manufacturers - closing a facility with decent wages and benefits and re-incorporating, sometimes under a new name, where they can pay substantial less.

2. There is more and more talk amongst the workers and UE staff that the company should remain in operation in some capacity. Many of the supporters who have been showing up have been encouraging the workers to take over the factory. Up until now, the workers seemed to think that closure of Republic could not be prevented. But I think this situation maybe changing.

3. There will be a press conference at City Hall tomorrow at noon. It seems as if some important announcements will be made than. But UE staff are saying that nothing will be resolved before 4 PM tomorrow when the company, the bank and the union meet.

4. The rally planned for 12 noon Tuesday outside the LaSalle Bank building at 231 S. LaSalle has been re-schedueled to Wednesday.

5. There is a rally planned outside the Bank of America facility in La Vilita (26th & Trumbull) by the March 10th Committee for 2 PM tomorrow. Their message is that the Latino community wants Bank of America to give their workers their due or Latinos will pull the money out of Bank of America.
You can see more pictures here...

Check out this article on the Republic Occupation in the Nation...

Great article...

Obama on Republic Windows Occupation...

Obama defends Republic Windows and Doors workers:
December 7, 2008
Sun-Times Political Reporter

President-elect Barack Obama put himself on the side of the workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory Sunday:"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," Obama said Sunday at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. "What's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy."When you have a financial system that is shaky, credit contracts. Businesses large and small start cutting back on their plants and equipment and their workforces. That's why it's so important for us to maintain a strong financial system. But it's also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren't just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they are designed to get money out the doors and to help people on Main Street. So, number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned their benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments."Number two, I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so we are not seeing these kinds of circumstances again,'' he said. "Have we done everything that we can to make sure credit is flowing to businesses and to families, and to students who are trying to get loans? And to homeowners who have been making payments on their homes but are still finding their property values so depressed that it becomes very difficult for them to make the mortgage payments?"That's where the rubber hits the road and that's going to be the central focus of my administration."

Schakowsky Supports Sit Down Strikers...

Schakowsky Supports Sit Down Strikers Demand Calls on Bank of America to Keep Plant Open and Meet Obligations to Workers


Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) will visit Republic Windows and Doors today to show her support for sit down strikers demanding that the company and its chief creditor, Bank of America, meet their obligations to company's 300 workers.

Who: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) and Republic Windows and Doors workersWhere: 1333 N. Hickory Ave., Chicago, IL (on Goose Island)When: Sunday, December 7 at 4:00 a.m.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) will visit Republic Windows and Doors today to show her support for sit down strikers demanding that the company and its chief creditor, Bank of America, meet their obligations to company's 300 workers.

Schakowsky will say that the taxpayer bailout of Bank of America and other large financial institutions creates a moral obligation requiring that Bank of America do everything in its power to assure that Republic Windows and Doors continues in business.

Failing that, she will say that any assets of the company should go first to pay the 60 days of severance and outstanding vacation pay due them under the Federal Warren Act, before Bank of America receives any remaining company funds. She will also ask that the company provide continuing health care coverage to its workers for a reasonable period of time.

Schakowsky indicated she supports the efforts of Congressman Luis Gutierrez to negotiate a suitable agreement. She will work with him and other members of the delegation to get the Treasury Department to require that banks such as Bank of America that have received taxpayer financing use these funds to benefit America's workers.

Links to press on the Republic Windows factory occupation...

Here is a continually updated list of links to press stories on the ongoing worker occupation at Republic Windows & Doors...,0,667083.story,19475,19332,barack-obama-republic-window-doors-120708.article,19708

More links can be found at...

Chicago workers occupy their factory on tonight's episode of Labor Express Radio...

Republic Windows & Doors workers occupy their factory and demand justice on tonight’s episode of Labor Express Radio.

For months on Labor Express we have discussed the economic crisis and what it means for working people. We have forecast a long period of high unemployment and desperation for millions of American workers. But now, a group of factory workers in Chicago are pointing the way forward and providing an example of how workers can fight back. The workers of Republic Windows & Doors near downtown Chicago were informed last Tuesday that their factory was closing at 10:00 AM on Friday morning. But rather than except their fate in silence, the workers at Republic, members of UE Local 1110, told their management they were not leaving the factory grounds until they received payment for the 75 days notice the company is obligated to provide under Illinois state law and pay for any accrued vacation time. This is the first factory occupation by workers in the United States in many decades. At this moment, two days after the managers had planned to shut the company’s doors for good, the workers continue to occupy the plant and are receiving around the clock support from hundreds of members of the labor and social justice communities.

Tune in tonight to hear about this historic, ongoing struggle directly from the mouths of the workers and organizers of UE Local 1110.

Listen live on the radio at 7:00 PM on 88.7 FM

Listen live via the web at

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Details on Rev. Jackson's visit to occupied factory tomorrow...

Rev. Jesse Jackson to Meet with Employees of Republic Windows and Doors Will Discuss Efforts to Save Workers' Jobs


Contacts: Leah Fried, United Electrical Workers, 773-550-3022
Mark Meinster, United Electrical Workers, 773-405-3022

Meeting between Rev. Jesse Jackson and employees of Republic Windows and Doors, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE), who are occupying the company's headquarters and manufacturing facility. The workers are engaging in the peaceful occupation in an effort to assure they'll get vacation and severance pay to which they are entitled.

Who: Rev. Jesse Jackson and Republic Windows and Doors workers

Where: 1333 N. Hickory Ave., Chicago, IL (on Goose Island)

When: Sunday, December 7 at 10:30 a.m.

Rev. Jackson is meeting to show his support for the employees who lost their jobs with only three days notice when the company was forced to close due to the cancellation of the its credit line by Bank of America. Workers are insisting on a settlement before any assets are removed from the plant. Rev. Jackson will discuss his efforts to work with Bank of America to reinstate the company's line of credit and save the approximately 300 jobs the company provides. Workers have been occupying the plant since Friday morning and have vowed to continue their occupation of the plant until a resolution is reached. A meeting of the parties has been scheduled for Monday at 4:00pm.

Indymedia photos from occupied factory...

Photo Galleries at : ]

Photos: Workers Occupy Republic Factory in Chicago
Christine Geovanis, Chicago Independent Media Center

Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon at the Republic Windows factory on Chicago's Goose Island to lend their solidarity to Republic workers, who occupied the plant on Friday. The workers have vowed to continue the occupation until they are paid back pay and benefits, or until the plant is re-opened -- by the owners or by the workers themselves. On Tuesday, the owners announced that because Bank of America has cut their credit line, the factory would be shuttered and all workers laid off on Friday -- without federally and state-mandated notice, severance pay and benefits. The workers instead voted to take over the plant, and have vowed to occupy the factory floor until the company pays them the money they're owed. Bank of America received $25 billion in federal bailout money earlier this fall, despite pointing out at the time that they were not in financial need. Since the bailout began, BOA -- like other big banks across the globe -- has slashed essential credit lines to manufacturing and service businesses, forcing a growing number of small and medium-sized companies to shut down. The action at Republic Windows comes on the heels of a workers' campaign at the plant to kick out the company union, which had colluded with company owners and management for years. That effort succeeded after three years of struggle, and workers have vowed to take that fighting spirit of solidarity to the wall with the factory occupation, as well.Republic Windows' worker occupation is one of the first actions of its kind in the United States since the Great Depression, when a wave of worker seizures of factories and manufacturing operations marked one of the most militant phases in U.S. labor history.

Jesse Jackson plans to visit occupied factory tomorrow morning...

Hi All,

I have received word that Jesse Jackson Sr. is planning on visiting the workers at the occupied Republic Windows & Doors factory tomorrow around 10 AM. There maybe an impromptu rally at that time.

Links to audio from the Republic factory occupation...

OK, here are links to some of the audio I promised. I will try to get more up tonight...

More audio from factory occupation later tonight...

Check back in a few hours for audio of interviews with the workers at Republic Windows occupation.

Republic Windows Workers Continue to Occupy Factory...

Spirits remain high as the workers at Republic Windows & Doors continue to occupy their factory. The company had planned to close it's doors at 10:00 AM Friday, but the workers, members of UE (United Electrical Workers) Local 1110, refused to leave until the company agreed to pay them the severance they are due by law. Under the federal WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), workers are supposed to be given 60 days notice of a plant’s closing. Under Illinois law, it is 75 days. The workers we told on Tuesday that the plant would close on Friday. They are demanding to be paid for the full 75 days they are due, any vacation days they have accrued and for their health care coverage to be continued during that time. The workers were told they no longer had health care coverage as of Friday.

Republic management is placing the blame on Bank of America, the company’s primary financier, stating that the bank is refusing to extend any further credit to the company. Bank of America has so far received $25 billion dollars in bailout funds from the federal government, funds that were meant to ensure that businesses like Republic could continue to get credit and continue to operate. At a rally outside the plant today, organized by Chicago Interfaith Committee On Worker Issues, workers and hundreds of community supporters held up signs reading… “You got bailed out, we got sold out.”

A meeting was held Friday afternoon including the Union, Bank of America and Congressman Luis Gutierrez to reach a settlement in regards to who would pay the workers their severance. Company management had also agreed to attend but did not show up for the meeting. Bank of America claims they can not discuss the company’s financial situation without Republic management’s approval, leading to an impasse at Friday’s meeting. When union representatives informed the workers on Friday evening that a settlement had not been reached, they voted to continue to occupy the factory until an agreement is reached with the bank and management. The workers are especially concerned that company assets will be removed from the plant before they are assured that funds are available to pay them what they are due by law.

Word of the occupation spread rapidly amongst the labor, social justice and immigrants rights communities in Chicago. At today’s noon rally, many of the speakers thanked the Republic Windows workers for “leading they way”, and showing workers that they can fight back against the hardships working people are facing as a result of the general economic crisis. Members from numerous unions, including SEIU, Teamsters, Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME, IBEW, and IWW, showed up at the plant for the rally, many bring donations of food, sleeping bags and blankets. The outpouring of community support seemed to bolster the already high spirits of the workers inside the factory.

A meeting has been scheduled with the Union, the company, Bank of America and Congressman Gutierrez for Monday afternoon. If an agreement is not reached by Monday evening, a rally is planned outside Bank of America at 231 S. La Salle in downtown Chicago for noon on Tuesday. Supporters are being encouraged to continue to come out to the factory to demonstrate their support and to help the workers with donations of food, bedding and cash. The factory is located at 1333 N. Hickory, on Goose Island (north of Division St. between Elston & Halsted).

For more info, feel free to call me at… (312) 502-7867.