Dec 6, 2008
CHICAGO (AFP) — Laid off workers were camped out at their abruptly shuttered factory on Saturday, demanding that the bank which cut off credit to the Chicago window maker free up some financing so they could be paid their final wages and benefits.
The sit-in began on Friday morning, just hours after the Labor Department reported that a stunning retrenchment cut 533,000 jobs from US payrolls in November, sending the nation's unemployment rate to a 15-year high.
The grim economic outlook was on the minds of the 300 workers whose were given just three days notice that Republic Windows & Doors was being forced to close.
"It's tough. It's really tough," said Apolinar Cabrena, 43, who had worked for the company for 17 years.
Cabrena's wife is pregnant and expects to deliver around Christmas.
He's got a mortgage and two other children to worry about and is owed
eight weeks of unused vacation pay and two months of severance.
"I know the economy is bad, not just for me but for everybody," Cabrena
said after he stepped outside the factory to speak to AFP on Friday
"I have a lot of hope that next year, with a new president, he'll make
good decisions and invest money in industry so I can get another job as
soon as possible."
Company officials told the plant's union that they were being forced to
close because their main lender, Bank of America, had withdrawn their
Federal law mandates that workers get paid for unused vacation time and
are either given 60 days notice of a mass layoff or paid for that time.
But company officials said they could not make those payments because
the bank was "basically controlling all expenditures at this point...
and was not allowing it," said United Electrical union representative
"There's a whole other level of shamefulness given the bailout (of
financial institutions) and that Bank of America didn't extend credit
as they were supposed to," Fried told AFP.
Fried said Republic Windows & Doors had been hard-hit by the
downturn in the housing market but could likely have managed to keep
the business afloat if their credit had not dried up.
"This is a company that's been around for 48 years. They've been
through quite a few ups and downs in the housing market and they
probably could have gotten through this, but Bank of America decided to
cut off the financing despite the bailout they received (from the
government) and now these people are out on the street."
Representatives from the company and Bank of America did not immediately return a request for comment.
Bank of America issued a statement to the local CBS news affiliate
saying: "Neither Bank of America nor any other third-party lender to
the company has the right to control whether the company complies with
applicable laws or honors its commitments to its employees."
After spending much of Friday chatting over pizza and coffee, the
plant's 250 union members organized themselves into three shifts to
keep the building occupied until a settlement is reached.
"We're doing this for the other working people in the country," said
machine operator Ron Bender, who had worked for the company for 14
"What's happened to us can happen to anyone - they could just close up and put you out and give you no severance pay."
Company officials told the union they would not try to eject them from
the plant and said they would attend a meeting on Monday afternoon with
the union, the bank and US Representative Luis Gutierrez to try to
hammer out a deal.
Chicago Workers Occupy Factory
The workers of Republic Windows and Doors are right this minute
occupying their factory, which was due to close at 10:00 AM Friday
The workers are fighting for pay for their lost vacation days and for
the 75 days notice that they are guaranteed under Illinois law. This is
the first time in many years workers have taken the bold, militant
strategy of occupying their place of work to demand justice. The plan
to occupy the plant until they hear the results of the next round of
negotiations Monday afternoon. THEY NEED TO KNOW THEY HAVE OUR
A prayer vigil has been planned for 12:00 Noon tomorrow. Please attend.
BUT WE SHOULD ORGANIZE A CONSTANT PRESENCE OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS
PICKETING OUTSIDE THE FACTORY! BRING FOOD AND COFFEE FOR THE WORKERS.
It is our presence and the press that is the workers best defense
against the police raiding the factory.
These workers are fighting for all of us!!! As the economic crisis
deepens we need to launch a working class fight back. These workers are
the starting point and deserve our full support.
Republic Windows & Doors
1333 N. Hickory
On Goose Island, near the intersection of Division & Clyborn
Feel free to call me for more info… (312) 502-7867 - Jerry Mead-Lucero
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