Sit-in at Chicago plan, now in its 5th day, has become symbol for a frustrated nation
It's the kind of story that has become all too familiar to working Americans - and the kind of story that we've been reading all too often in the news lately.Scores of workers were laid-off with little notice from a Chicago factory last week, when the factory closed down abruptly after Bank of America canceled the company's financing.
Bank of America's last-minute decision to close Republic down had resulted in the company shutting its doors without providing its workers the 60 days' notice required by law. And the workers hadn't been paid for their accrued vacation or sick time, either.
However, these workers, who are members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, didn't follow management's example and go quietly into the night to face the prospect of a cold winter without a job.
They decided instead to take a stand, staging a "peaceful occupation" of the Republic Windows and Doors plant in what is now day five of an around-the-clock sit-in, as some 200 workers take turns occupying the plant in eight-hour shifts.
The workers of Republic Windows were not the only people in the community trying to fathom how a bank that had just accepted $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money--money that was intended to get their credit flowing again--could not even manage to extend enough credit to the plant to meet its legal obligations to its workers. Leading political figures in the Chicago area and beyond have turned out to support the sit-in -- including the former South Side community organizer and state senator who is now our president-elect.
"When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right," President-elect Barack Obama said to the Chicago Sun-Times during a news conference Sunday. "...These companies need to follow through on those commitments. [And] I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so we are not seeing these kinds of circumstances again."
At a press conference yesterday at Chicago's city hall, a contingent of 15 Chicago aldermen, workers from Republic Windows and Doors, leaders of the Chicago Federation of Labor Leaders, UE, SEIU and Rev. Jesse Jackson announced an official ordinance to end to any involvement by the city of Chicago with Bank of America.
"It's not only unfair to the workers, but also Bank of America is thumbing its nose at Congress by taking federal recovery funds while refusing to extend credit to a small manufacturing company with a long history of profitability," said Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Illinois Council. "Bank of America's withdrawal of credit also contradicts and undercuts President-elect Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the depressed economy by investing in weatherization of existing homes and buildings and in other infrastructure and energy-saving construction," Balanoff added.
Want to lend your support for the workers at Republic Windows and Doors? Ways to take action now and hold Bank of America accountable, via Change to Win:
* Send a message of support to the sit-down strikers
* Send a message of support to the sit-down strikers: the Republic workers' union has set up an online form you can use to let them know that you support their struggle.
* Send a message to Bank of America
* Send a message to Bank of America: Jobs with Justice, the national worker rights coalition, has set up an online form you can use to write to Bank of America to demand they keep Republic open or pay the workers at Republic what they're owed.
* Contribute to the strike fund
* Contribute to the strike fund: the workers at Republic aren't collecting paychecks, and they and their families still need to eat and keep a roof over their heads. You can help by making a secure online contribution to the strike fund via PayPal.