Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chicago Workers' Factory Sit-In Succeeds

Workers at the Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago were victorious in their efforts to receive their severance pay and vacation time after the company gave them just three days' notice that the plant was closing and that they'd receive no compensation. 

Federal law requires 60 days' notice. The company told the workers that the Bank of America would not extend a line of credit to cover their benefits. The workers decided to occupy the factory in response to the injustices they were facing. From the New York Times:

By the time their six-day sit-in ended on Wednesday night, the 240 laid-off workers at this previously anonymous 125,000-square-foot plant had become national symbols of worker discontent amid the layoffs sweeping the country. Civil rights workers compared them to Rosa Parks. But all the workers wanted, they said, was what they deserved under the law: 60 days of severance pay and earned vacation time.

And to their surprise, their drastic action worked. Late Wednesday, two major banks agreed to lend the company enough money to give the workers what they asked for.

“In the environment of this economic crisis, we felt we were obligated to fight for our money,” Armando Robles, a maintenance worker and president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represented the workers, said in Spanish.

The reverberations of the workers’ victory are likely to be felt for months as plants continue to close. Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, predicted organized labor would be emboldened by the workers’ success. “If you combine some palpable street anger with organizational resources in a changing political mood,” he said, “you can begin to see more of these sort of riskier, militant adventures, and they’re more likely to succeed.”

The company and the bank gave the workers no other choice when they were denied what they earned–and I wouldn't be surprised if Bruno's prediction proved true. As union representative Mark Meinster stated in the video above, "I think it sends a very strong message to any company that tries to close without giving notice to its employees, who tries to skirt the federal laws that we have around this issue."

Just think: workers united with union support to receive the money they actually earned. No doubt the Southern Republicans have taken notice and are more determined than ever to destroy the United Auto Workers.

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