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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 72/No. 50      December 22, 2008


As we go to press …
Workers sitting in at Republic Windows and Doors approved a settlement December 10 in which the workers will get eight weeks’ pay, all accrued vacation pay, and two months’ paid health care.

Chicago workers sit in
at plant over layoffs
Win 60 days’ pay, medical benefits
(lead article)
Militant/Jorge Lertora
Workers holding sit-in at the Republic Windows and Doors factory on Chicago’s North Side December 5 to demand pay and medical coverage due them after bosses closed plant without 60 days’ notice. Action has won support from workers across city.

CHICAGO—Some 100 workers and their supporters rallied outside the Republic Windows and Doors factory on the North Side of this city December 6 to support a factory sit-in by more than 200 workers who were laid off when the plant closed down the previous day.

Workers are demanding 60 days’ pay and medical insurance benefits they are due under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. This law requires 60-day notification in advance of mass layoffs or plant closings.

“We knew something was going on when they started moving machinery out in the last two weeks,” said Armando Robles, president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical Workers, and a maintenance worker in the plant. “Then on December 2 the company told us that Bank of America had cancelled their line of credit and they would be closing down for good December 5.”

“They want the poor person to stay down,” Silvia Mazon, 47, told the New York Times. “They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.” Mazon has worked as an assembler in the plant for 13 years.

Workers also organized a protest at Bank of America’s offices December 3. Bank of America received $25 billion from the government’s financial bailout package, but maintains it is not responsible for the company’s financial obligations.

Luis Lira, a worker with 16 years in the plant, is in charge of the safety committee for the sit-in. Workers have organized to keep the plant orderly and clean, even shoveling snow. “We’ve been getting a lot of support from people in other unions and the community,” Lira said. He explained workers are taking shifts to occupy the factory. “We pretty much have full participation by those of us laid off on Friday.”

The rally in front of the plant was organized by the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues. It included speakers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union; Teamsters; United Food and Commercial Workers; and other unions, as well as U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Democratic politician and Operation PUSH coalition leader Jesse Jackson met with the workers the next day. When questioned by a reporter about the Republic Windows sit-in at a December 7 press conference, President-elect Barack Obama said that the company should follow through on its commitments to its workers. On December 8 Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich met with the workers and later announced the state of Illinois was suspending its business with Bank of America.

As we go to press, Bank of America announced that it is “prepared to” provide a “limited amount” of additional loans to Republic Windows and Doors to help resolve the sit-in. Workers say the job action will continue until all the issues are resolved.

Frederico Martinez has worked nine years at the plant. He explained the company used to have 550 union workers there but laid off more than 300 over the past two years. “More people are beginning to realize that these companies exploit the workers when business is good, then later they just lay people off little by little, with no regard for the workers. We’re taking a stand here for everyone,” Martinez said.

Donations can be sent by checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund to: UE, 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support can be sent to leahfried@gmail.com. For more information, call the UE Chicago office at (312) 829-8300.
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