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).
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