Sunday, December 7, 2008

Workers occupy Chicago factory! Give your support!

Workers occupy Chicago factory! Give your support!

By Jill White

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This afternoon more than 250 community activists, union leaders and others gathered in a rally in front of Republic Windows Factory on Chicago’s northwest side. They were voicing their solidarity with the workers who have refused to leave the factory in protest over the shutdown of the plant. Speakers included members of the Service Employees International Union; Teamsters; Chicago Teachers Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and others.

In an interview following the rally, Armando Robles, President of UE Local 111, described the anger felt by the workers when they were told, with so little notice, that not only were they losing their jobs but that their insurance policies had been canceled and workers were not to receive vacation earned or severance pay.

Robles said that according to Illinois law, the company is required to give 75 days notice of a shutdown, or pay workers for 75 days. The company blames the Bank of America for not providing a line of credit to the company. But, according to Robles, management has been lying to the workers and the union about the status of company.

Following the vote to stage the sit-in, Robles described how the management tried to isolate reporters from the workers, but they blocked the door so the reporters could remain in the meeting.

Another worker, Silvia Magna, described how shocked and angry the workers were when they found out they were losing their jobs. She said they all work hard, and yet she only brings home $328 a week.

Many workers have been cut and lost fingers on the job. Magna said the workers are determined to stay in the plant until “we get what we worked for.” They blame both the owners and the bankers because the owners have not been honest with the workers.

Magna says they are fighting not only for themselves and their families, “but to be an inspiration to other workers to fight like we are. We are making history because people have not seen the workers fight from inside the plants.” She says the workers will do whatever is necessary and requested solidarity from people from the outside.

UE organizer Leah Fried said that if there is no satisfactory resolution at a meeting Dec. 8, and all else remains stable, the next solidarity action in Chicago will be held at noon Tuesday, Dec. 9, at Bank of America at 231 S. LaSalle. Fried said people should email and fax Bank of America demanding the workers receive their pay due. Chicago supporters are encouraged to come by and sign a solidarity banner that is posted in the plant lobby. Financial contributions should be sent to Local 111, UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60607.

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