6:22 PM Eastern - Monday, May 11, 2009

Hartmarx Workers Vote to "Sit In" to Save Their Jobs as TARP Recipient Wells Fargo Threatens to Close Factory

Last week we brought you news of the emerging struggle of suit makers for Chicago-based Hart Schaffner & Marx menswear factory, members of SEIU's newest affiliate Workers United, whose jobs are in jeopardy as chief lender Wells Fargo Bank pushes to liquidate the bankrupt company.

Hartmarxworkers_rally3_sm2.jpgHistoric "sit in" vote: Mirroring the six-day protest that helped save more than 250 Republic Windows and Doors workers from losing their jobs last December, Hartmarx workers voted unanimously this morning in favor of a "sit in" style action. This means that if Wells Fargo or a new owner tries to begin liquidation or close the factory, the workers will respond by physically occupying the factory.

With more than 3,000 jobs hanging in the balance, employees want the factory's largest creditor and recipient of $25 billion in taxpayers' bailout funds, Wells Fargo, to help it reorganize instead of shutting it down. The public is standing behind the 130-year-old company and slamming Wells Fargo for shortsightedly refusing to invest in U.S. companies and workers.

"After receiving billions in taxpayer bailout funds, Wells Fargo should be rolling up its sleeves and looking for ways to save jobs--not leading the charge to eliminate some of the few good U.S. manufacturing jobs left," said SEIU President Andy Stern. Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias upped the ante even further last week, threatening that "unless the company remains open, [Wells Fargo] will not be doing business with the state of Illinois any longer."

The potential loss of the state's $8 billion portfolio hasn't resulted in the bank rescinding their threat of closure yet, but Giannoulias did have a brighter outlook to share with the packed factory cafeteria full of Hartmarx employees who endorsed the sit-in plan of action this morning. Giannoulias told the audience that he had spoken to Wells Fargo this morning, as well as one of the three bidders on the company, who he described as "enthusiastic about keeping this company going." Watch the YouTube video clip from Progress Illinois:

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