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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.