Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Workers win a big round in Chicago factory sit-in

Workers win a big round in Chicago factory sit-in

The creditor of a Chicago plant where laid-off employees are conducting a sit-in to demand severance pay said Tuesday it would extend limited loans to the factory so it could resolve the dispute, but the workers declared their protest unfinished.

The Republic Windows and Doors factory closed last week after Bank of America canceled its financing. About 200 laid-off workers responded by staging a sit-in at the plant, vowing to stay until getting assurances they would receive severance and accrued vacation pay.

Their action garnered national attention, seen by some as a symbol of defiance for workers laid off nationwide.

A resolution appeared closer when the bank announced that it had sent a letter to Republic offering to "provide a limited amount of additional loans" to resolve the employee claims.

The bank appeared to side at least in part with disgruntled workers, expressing concern in a statement Tuesday "about Republic's failure to pay their employees the Employee Claims to which they are legally entitled."

Bank of America has been criticized for cutting off the plant's credit after taking federal bailout money itself.

Leah Fried, a spokeswoman for the union representing the workers, said Tuesday that it was too soon to know whether the sit-in will be called off. She said that workers would have to vote to end the action but that negotiations among the bank, the company and union representative continued.

Workers, who received just three days' notice before the plant shut down on Friday, argue that the company violated federal law because employees were not given 60 days' notice that they were losing their jobs.

The company did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

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