Thoughts on the Chicago factory occupation by members of Solidarity & Defense
On Dec 5th Republic Windows and Doors, a Chicago firm, was set to close. Republic’s financial institution/creditor is Bank of America.
When Friday arrived Republics 260 workers organized in UE1110, seized the plant. The occupation continues.
4 days before workers were abruptly informed their jobs were gone. Federal and Illinois state laws respectively require 60/70 days notice of closing on the equivalent in wages/severance pay. Adding insult to injury Republic has denied the workers a collective $1.5 million in severance plus unused earned vacation pay. The average seniority worker is owed $3,500.
Republic’s owner said the closing and failure to pay severance is based on Bank of America’s unwillingness to extend credit. A Bank statement released Dec. 6th said it was not responsible for Republics obligations to its employee’s. This criminal and callous action comes after Bank of America received $25 Billion in taxpayer bailout money. Since the plant seizure Republic has remained silent.
Republics sales have been hit by the home building slump. Last month its sales dropped to $2.9 million from a previous $4 Million. Two weeks prior to he announced closing, workers reported management started moving equipment out of the plant.
There are suspicions that Republic intends to move out of state, slip its $14/hr with benefits union contract, and then financially restructure and reposition itself. Could Republic and Bank of America be in collusion? Suspicions aside, BoA is responsible for the closing and lack of payment to the Republic workers. The $25 Billion it was given was for the purpose of extending credit and keeping the economy moving.
The workers of UE1110 have seized more than Republics plant. They’ve seized the attention of thousands of workers being hammered by the unfolding crisis.
They have not gone away quietly. Hopefully their dramatic actions will spark other groups of working people to direct action.
Several Democratic politicians and the President Elect have come to support UE1110 with astonishing speed because they fear such actions. They feel a pressing need to remove a dangerous and dramatic example from the news. More so given the ongoing turmoil involving the auto industry. They are moving to wind up the events at Republic by channeling peoples dissatisfaction and anger back into the political process.
Hopefully the UE workers will press beyond the issue of severance pay. If BoA is forced to extend credit it should be to reopen the factory. Republic management should be tested on its commitment to reopen the plant and keep it in Chicago. If management fails to do this the plant should remain open as a worker/community controlled enterprise, infused with public funds. Republic workers and their supporters throughout Chicago and the U.S. should organize to demand that the entire labor movement as well as community groups back this course of action. It should be demanded of the incoming Obama regime that the worker/community enterprise be given work supplying windows and doors to the proposed public works and “green jobs” agendas.
The spread and generalization of these kinds of demands involving worker-community control, as well as a refusal to make the workers pay in the face of the crisis, could build the combativity and self-confidence of the working class. Moving us towards a struggle to break the rule of the capitalist and political classes and embark on the revolutionary course of building an alternative society.
What began as a courageous action by a small group of Chicago workers could provide the need act of inspiration to move us along in this direction.
Love and Solidarity to the UE Workers,
Drafted by members of Solidarity & Defense - Detroit Branch.
POBox 5024 - Detroit, MI - 48215