Monday, December 8, 2008

Support the Chicago Workers

Never have unions been more necessary than today. Not for the baseball players or other millionaire's clubs, but for people like this. Of course, having one sadly still will not protect you from a predatory company that violates your contract, shuts down your factory (in violation of the notice law) and then tries to lay you off without the promised severance pay. If there was a death penalty for corporate crime, the executives of Republic Windows and Bank of America should be the first in line for the guillotine.

Congressman: Company to meet over workers' sit-in
By RUPA SHENOY, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO – Representatives of the company whose laid-off employees are staging a sit-in at the shuttered factory where they worked will meet Monday with union and bank officials, a congressman said.

Some 200 workers who abruptly lost their jobs last week have said they won't leave the Republic Windows and Doors plant until they get assurances they will receive their severance and vacation pay. Their demonstration has drawn support from President-electBarack Obama and others.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez said early Monday that a meeting arranged for late afternoon would address the workers' concerns.

The Chicago Democrat said officials of the now-closed Republic Windows and Doors would meet with representatives of the workers' union, the United Electrical Workers, and of the bank that has canceled its financing of the company.

Company representatives have not commented since the sit-in began on Friday, and have not responded to calls and e-mails.

Gutierrez said Republic officials had signed a waiver permitting the opening of its financial records at the meeting.

Republic Windows and Doors told the workers on Dec. 2 that they would be out of work by the end of the week.

Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers, said the company told the union that Bank of America had canceled its financing. The bank had said in a statement that it wasn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

The announcement of the meeting comes after a wave of publicity about the sit-in and appearances by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Obama, who said Sunday that the company should honor its commitments to the 200 workers.

"The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they're absolutely right and understand that what's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy," Obama said at a news conference Sunday.

To their amazement, the workers have become a national symbol for thousands of employees laid off nationwide as the economy sours.

"We never expected this," said factory employee Melvin Maclin, vice president of the union local that represents the workers. "We expected to go to jail."

One of the factory's workers, Silvia Mazon, said in Spanish that she needs the money owed to her for an $1,800 monthly house payment. The 40-year-old Cicero resident said she has enough money saved to survive for one month.

"We're making history," she said.

This is a simple issue of justice that is beyond the pale for any company to do to its workers, although these days it is sadly the norm. If there was no union contract protecting these workers, they would have no cause and likely would have been arrested and expelled. As it is, they have become symbols for what has happened to our economy.

And what has happened to our economy? Republic Windows is not going bankrupt. They just did not make as much money as the year before and decided without notice to shut the factory down and lay off all of its workers. If anything embodies the arrogance of the lords of industry, this action is it.

By the way, you can support these workers. If you are in the Chicago area, and unfortunately I am not, you can stop by and give these workers some much needed food, drinks, and just public expressions of your appreciation. Having come from a union family, and been on picket lines before, I cannot underestimate how much any kindness from the general public can motivate and give these people a much needed boost. This is where they are located.

1333 N Hickory Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 932-8000

If you want to donate to these workers through their union, The United Electrical Workers have a Paypal site that allows you to do so. You can also send them a message of support.

And just in case you want to contact the SOBs at the Bank of America, who started this mess, here is the union's site for contacting these wretches and telling them what you think.

And remember, this is the same criminal enterprise that the UAW-bashing Republicans supported giving $25 billion of your tax money to BoA through the Wall Street bailout back in October (and a company whose CEO pulled in over $24 million in salary last year). Great group.

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