Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Support for sit-in spreads to Rochester Hartmarx plant...

For Immediate Release
May 13, 2009

Rochester Hickey-Freeman Workers Vote to Stage Sit-In if Bailed-Out Bank Attempts to
Close Company
Vote Comes One Day After Illinois Workers Pledge Sit-in;
Sen. Charles Schumer Demands Jobs Stay in Rochester

ROCHESTER, NY, MAY 13—Determined to protect good, U.S. manufacturing jobs, more than 450 Hickey-Freeman workers unanimously voted yesterday to stage a sit-in if Wells Fargo & Co., their employer’s main creditor and a recipient of a $25 billion taxpayer bailout, liquidates company assets. Rochester workers are joining with employees of Hartmarx, Hickey-Freeman’s parent company, who voted earlier in the week to stage a sit-in if their plants were shuttered.

“There are a lot of married couples that work here. If they lost their jobs, their families would be devastated,” said Debbie Glinski, who has worked at Hickey-Freeman in Rochester for 15 years. “These banks received bail out money and that came from taxpayers like us. We helped them out and they need to help us out too.”

“We want to work. We’re willing to sit-in—and do more if necessary—to keep working,” said 50-year Hickey-Freeman employee Fred Cotraccia.

Yesterday’s vote means that if Wells Fargo or a buyer tries to liquidate the company or close the factory, the workers will respond by physically remaining at their job site. The Rochester Regional Joint Board of the Workers United union (an SEIU affiliate) ran the election. Hickey-Freeman employees have been members of the Joint Board for 90 years.

"These jobs are good jobs, and we’re hoping Wells Fargo doesn’t try to throw them away, but if it does, we're prepared to do whatever it takes to secure the jobs here in Rochester," Joint Board manager Gary Bonadonna said.

State and national leaders are increasingly standing up for Hartmarx workers and slamming Wells Fargo for shortsightedly refusing to invest in U.S. companies and workers.

"Wells Fargo has received billions in direct government support to get them through this crisis," Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a press statement. "Now they must help justify the taxpayers' investment and give Hartmarx the time it needs to develop the best possible bids, and must select a bid for the company that will allow it to stay open and preserve 600-plus jobs in Rochester, scores more in Buffalo and 3,000 jobs across the country."

Chicago-based Hartmarx, the largest menswear manufacturing company in the nation, filed for bankruptcy protection in January after U.S. banks curtailed its lines of credit. The clothing maker employs 3,500 across the nation.

Amanda Cooper
Workers United - An SEIU Affiliate

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