Sunday, December 14, 2008
In Detroit various organizations and individuals joined the Moratorium Now, Stop Florclosures! coalition to conduct a demonstration in downtown at Congress and Woodward at BoA. Industrial Workers of the World, Labor Notes, Moratorium Now, Centro Obrero/Workers Center, and Solidarty & Defense were all on the ground.
The picture to the right is of the Detroit action.
links to other reports: Workers solidarity in action...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11th – Lansing, Michigan
On Wednesday, December 10th members of Solidarity & Defense, The NorthStar Center and other concerned community members gathered outside the Bank of America in the heart of downtown Lansing, Michigan. They came together in solidarity with the factory occupation being carried out by UE Workers in Chicago.
The workers’ occupation of the Republic Windows & Doors Factory began after Republic announced it would close its doors due to its Credit Line being cut. The decision to cut Republic’s credit line was made by Bank of America, and as a result, the company lacked the funds to pay the severance packages or sick time rightfully due to the workers. This is the same Bank of America that is receiving money from the latest Federal Bailout plan.
In Lansing, the picketers joined others across the country in demanding that Bank of America extend the line of credit needed to pay these workers what they are owed. They handed out flyers about the occupation taking place in Chicago and talked to passersby on the street. The picketers urged the local bank branch to contact corporate headquarters with their message of support for the UE Workers. The picket ended with those present planning continued support of the UE Local 1110, the workers and their occupation of Republic Windows & Doors.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Chicago IWW's UE Workers solidarity Committee is calling a national day of action in support of the strike.
In solidarity, Iww's will hold similar rallies and pickets across the U.S at Bank of Americas on Wednesday.
The committee's main purpose is to coordinate between organizations to provide a rapid flying squad if it is required by the U.E. If other organizations are working in a similar capacity then we need to work together to build our strength.
To get involved in the committee come to our next meeting or call/email:
Wednesday & sunday 7:00
37 s Ashland
marisaholmes (at) gmail.com
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
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
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Much has been made about the prospect that Barack Obama's presidency might, due to economic necessity and the president-elect's interventionist inclinations, be a reprise of the New Deal era.
But there will be no "new New Deal" if Americans simply look to Obama to lead them out of the domestic quagmire into which Bill Clinton and George Bush led the country with a toxic blend of free-trade absolutism, banking deregulation and disdain for industrial policy. Just as Roosevelt needed mass movements and militancy as an excuse to talk Washington stalwarts into accepting radical shifts in the economic order, so Obama will need to be able to point to some turbulence at the grassroots.
And so he may have it.
After the Bank of America -- a $25-billion recipient of Bailout Czar Hank Paulson's "Wall Street First" largesse -- cut off operating credit to the Republic Windows and Doors company, executives of the firm announced Friday that they were shutting its factory in Chicago.
Instead of going home to a dismal Holiday season like hundreds of thousands of other working Americans who have fallen victim to the corporate "reduction-in-force" frenzy of recent weeks -- which has seen suddenly-secure banks pocket federal dollars rather than loosen up credit -- the Republic workers occupied the factory where many of them had worked for decades.
Members of United Electrical Workers Local 1110, which represents 260 Republic workers, are conducting the contemporary equivalent of the 1930s sit-down strikes that led to the rapid expansion of union recognition nationwide and empowered the Roosevelt administration to enact more equitable labor laws. And, just as in the thirties, they are objecting to policies that put banks ahead of workers; stickers worn by the UE sit-down strikers read: "You got bailed out, we got sold out."
"We're going to stay here until we win justice," says Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, who was one of the UE members occupying the Republic factory over the weekend for several hours.
Most of Republic workers are Hispanic and they want answers from the Bank of America and the company.
According to the UE, the workers hope "to force the company and its main creditor to meet their obligations to the workers."
"Their goal is to at least get the compensation that workers are owed; they also seek the resumption of operations at the plant," explains the union. "All 260 members of the local were laid off Friday in a sudden plant closing, brought on by Bank of America cutting off operating credit to the company. The bank even refused to authorize the release of money to Republic needed to pay workers their earned vacation pay, and compensation they are owed under the federal WARN Act because they were not given the legally-required notice that the plant was about to close."
UE is an independent union that is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, although its roots go back to the militant labor organizing of the 1930s that gave rise to the groundbreaking Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Some of the solidarity of old has been on display in Chicago this weekend, as UE members have been supported by unions that are affiliated with both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition of major unions.
Recognizing the absurdity of taxpayer-funded bailouts that enrich banks that in turn cut credit for American manufacturers, Richard Berg, president of Chicago's powerful Teamsters Local 743, said. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."
Invoking Chicago's rich record of labor struggle -- from the Haymarket Martyrs in the 19th century to the steel industry organizing of the 1930s -- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 regional director Larry Spivack hailed its latest expression.
"The history of workers is built on issues like this here today," Spivack told union members at the plant.
But it is not just the history of workers that turns on struggles such as this. It is the history of presidents and the United States.
Barack Obama will not be the new FDR, and this coming period will not see a "new New Deal" unless labor is inspired to fight once more to keep workers on the job, plants operating and American manufacturing industries muscular enough to survive in the global market. Then, the proper demands can be made on an Obama administration to back up not just unions but their expanding membership.
If the right history of this time is written, it will be said that the new New Deal began in Chicago -- not just because Obama comes from the city but because workers there chose to stand up by sitting down.
For updates on developments in Chicago, UE website.
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon at the Republic Windows factory on Chicago's Goose Island to lend their solidarity to Republic workers, who occupied the plant on Friday. The workers have vowed to continue the occupation until they are paid back pay and benefits, or until the plant is re-opened -- by the owners or by the workers themselves.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Chicago factory occupied
Lee Sustar reports from Chicago on an occupation by workers who want what's theirs from management and the Bank of America.
December 6, 2008
WORKERS OCCUPYING the Republic Windows & Doors factory slated for closure are vowing to remain in the Chicago plant until they win the $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay owed them by management. In a tactic rarely used in the U.S. since the labor struggles of the 1930s, the workers, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, refused to leave the plant on December 5, its last scheduled day of operation. "We decided to do it because this is money that belongs to us," said Maria Roman, who's worked at the plant for eight years. "These are our rights." Word of the occupation spread quickly both among labor and immigrant rights activists--the overwhelming majority of the workers are Latinos. Seven local TV news stations showed up to do interviews and live reports, and a steady stream of activists arrived to bring donations of food and money and to plan solidarity actions. Management claims that it can't continue operations because its main creditor, Bank of America (BoA), refuses to make any more loans to the company. After workers picketed BoA headquarters December 3, bank officials agreed to sit down with Republic management and UE to discuss the matter at a December 5 meeting arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill), said UE organizer Leah Fried. BoA had said that it couldn't discuss the matter with the union directly without written approval from Republic's management. But Republic representatives failed to show up at the meeting, and plant managers prepared to close the doors for good--violating the federal WARN Act that requires 60 days notice of a plant closure. The workers decided this couldn't go unchallenged. "The company and Bank of America are throwing the ball to one another, and we're in the middle," said Vicente Rangel, a shop steward and former vice president of Local 1110. Many workers had suspected the company was planning to go out of business--and perhaps restart operations elsewhere. Several said managers had removed both production and office equipment in recent days. Furthermore, while inventory records indicated there were plenty of parts in the plant, workers on the production line found shortages. And the order books, while certainly down from the peak years of the housing boom, didn't square with management's claims of a total collapse. "Where did all those windows go?" one worker asked. Workers were especially outraged that Bank of America, which recently received a bailout in taxpayer money, won't provide credit to Republic. "They get $25 billion from the government, and won't loan a few million to this company so workers can keep their jobs?" said Ricardo Caceres, who has worked at the plant for six years. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - THE MEMBERS of Local 1110 have a history of struggle. In 2004, they decertified the Central States Joint Board--a union notorious for corruption and sweetheart contracts with management--and brought in UE, a far more democratic organization. In May of this year, Local 1110 mobilized for a contract by organizing a "practice" picket, and 70 workers used their lunch break to confront the boss with a petition listing their demands. The workers were able to turn back company's effort to win major concessions and won solid pay increases.Now, management is trying to get revenge by pocketing money that belongs to the workers. UE officials and workers acknowledge that it will be difficult to stop the plant from closing. But they're determined to get the money owed to them--and they believe that by fighting, they can set an example for other workers facing layoffs and plant closures as the recession deepens. Negotiations are set for Monday, December 8. Whatever happens, however, the workers have already sent a message to employers that if they violate workers rights and the law, they can expect a fight. "This is a message to the workers of America," said Vicente Rangel, the shop steward. "If we stand together, we will prevail until justice is done, and we get what we're due." = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
What you can do
If you live in the Chicago area, come to a rally on Saturday, December 6, at 12 Noon at Republic Windows, 1333 N. Hickory in Chicago, on Goose Island. If negotiations with Bank of America fail to resolve the issue, there will be a picket of BoA's Chicago headquarters at 231 S. LaSalle on Tuesday, December 9 at 12 noon. Members of Local 1110 need your support. Make checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, and mail to: 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300. At the Jobs with Justice Web site, you can send a message of protest to Bank of America (http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/bankofamerica/).
Live Bait & Ammo #116: Legacy Cost, a Smokescreen for Fraud
The media keeps reporting that GM workers make on average $70 per hour in total compensation, and that Toyota workers only make $45.
The $25 difference is attributed to legacy costs.
Legacy benefits were earned in the past. Tacking compensation earned in the past onto active workers in the present is deceptive bookkeeping.
Since legacy benefits were earned in the past, why are they now charged to workers in the present?
Since GM included the cost of in the price of cars sold in the past, why are they charging customers for that cost again?
Since the compensation was deferred, was any of that money put into a trust fund?
If so, didn’t GM get tax breaks for money deposited in the trust fund?
What happened to the trust fund?
Should the victims of fraud be blamed for destroying the American auto industry?
Management, not labor, is responsible for legacy cost. Management, not labor, is over compensated in comparison to foreign competitors.
“In the fiscal year that ended in March 2007, Toyota’s top 32 executives — a group that included CEO Katsuaki Watanabe — together pulled in $7.8 million in bonuses on top of salaries of $12.1 million. For the comparable period, one single GM exec, , raked in $10.2 million.” [www.toomuchonline.org/tmweekly.html]
In 2008 Wagoner got a $5.3 million dollar raise.
Economist David Gordon in his book “Fat and Mean” said, “In the 1980s, by common measures, the proportion of managerial and administrative employment was more than three times as high in the United States as in Germany and Japan.” Gordon points out that in the US we have a higher percentage of supervisors than Germany, Japan, and Sweden combined.
According to Gordon, 20% of the purchase price of every product made in the USA goes to supervisors and monitors, not including secretaries and assistants and bean counters. In other words, when you buy a $20,000 vehicle, $4,000 goes to pay for the burden of supervisors, managers, and executives whose sweatless efforts add no value to the product. Less than 10% of the purchase price can be attributed to assembly line workers.
Perhaps the biggest question is: Why doesn’t , the President of the UAW, raise these issues?
Why doesn’t he defend the reputation of his members?
Why doesn’t he publicly acknowledge that the legacy cost mantra is a smokescreen for fraud?
Stay Solid, Gregg Shotwell
Posted by Mike E on December 4, 2008
By Mike Ely
“Concessions, I used to cringe at that word. But now, why hide it? That’s what we did.”
Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers (New York Times, Dec. 4)
As the ruling class (and the new administration) debate a “bailout” for the auto industry, it is hard to miss that the autoworkers are becoming a key target.
So much about this stinks. It is outrageous and infuriating.
Within days of erupting crisis, 700 billion were rushed to “protect” (and soothe) huge banks — and a whole superstructure of media mouthpieces announced they were “too big to fail” and that they “needed it.” But meanwhile, those same mouthpieces report that the autoworkers have “bloated” or “supersized” benefits — and that the auto companies have been “irresponsible” in granting concessions (to the workers!) that now “need” to be plucked before any “bail out” can be considered. All the talk of Chapter 11 bankrupcy (for General Motors) revolves around the power this gives the auto capitalists to simply tear up the agreements and benefits (around which hundreds of thousands of working people have structured their lives and plans.) In the brutal language of capitalism, these promises and agreements are called “the dilemma of legacies” (as if the workers’ futures is just a problem hoisted from an outdated past.)
And the argument made is pure capitalism: Why bail out the auto industry if they are not “competitive,” and how can they be competitive without much more thoroughly shredding the “social contract” made with autoworkers (driving them from their current often-stable and middle class status, to a situation “competitive” with the workers of capitalist rivals — in the Deep South or in other countries).
For decades Detroit was allowed to slip away — as a livable city — and now we are seeing the Detroitization of the surrounding region.
What gets laid bare here is capitalism’s drive for the bottom — when it comes to wages and conditions of the workers. And the incredible fluidity of capital — which first granted benefits (and even relative privilege) to autoworkers after world war 2, and then announces that it “can’t” sustain this (as a whole generation prepares to retire).
At night the mind is haunted by the suffering and uncertainty of Iraqi people under occupation and unjust imprisonment. At dawn in Bangla Desh, an army of young women stream into vast textile mills to clothe the world — why they themselves stand barely fed and clothed. As sunset passes over each part of the world, young women are sold and brutalized again and again in a global sex trade. Each day, in China, thousands of coal miners face death in badly ventilated mines with poorly supported roofs. There are other “ground zeros” of global capitalism — and so many of them much more bittern and relentless than what has hit in Michigan .
For decades, a section of workers in the U.S. have been relatively shielded from the worst of these horrors. And then comes crisis, and the cold arithmetic of a restless system. And suddenly it is unclear where the bottom is to this slide.
The following article from the New York Times lays out the concessions just extracted from the autoworkers.
AN AUTO BOOSTER: The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, holds a news conference Friday at MotorCity Casino in Detroit to address the troubles facing the Detroit Three. He is joined by some in the auto industry and others concerned about it in hopes of helping to promote congressional approval of auto loans.
JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AP
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., speaks Friday at a rally on Capitol Hill in support of loans to Detroit's automakers. Suppliers and dealers from 50 states and D.C. wore red, white and blue jerseys that bore the number of jobs believed to be at stake.