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THIS is what real activists do.

In Chicago, 200 factory workers laid off Friday from the Republic Window's & Doors Company have occupied the building in a peaceful protest to demand severence pay and wages owed to them.

According to A.P. (via yahoo news):

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant's operation.

Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.

Workers also were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, she said.

During the peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

Shoveling snow and cleaning up the place? This is what I call a peaceful protest.

Socialist Worker has more information about the protest than the A.P. story. Acccording to their article, the workers feel they are owed, collectively, 1.5 million dollars in severence and earned vacation pay.

The overwhelming majority of the workers are Latinos.

From the SW article:

"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."

Part of the acrimony of the workers is not with the company itself, but with bank of America, who ceased issuing credit to Republic Windows & Doors, apparently securing thier demise.

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.

Crain's Chicago Business was first to report on the sit-in. According to their article:

Disgruntled union workers for Republic Windows & Doors Inc. met Friday with company management, a congressman and representatives of Bank of America in an attempt to settle a dispute over the manufacturer’s abrupt closing.

Members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 hold Bank of America responsible for the demise of the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer. They also claim that the bank told Republic officials to forgo severance payments, which the union believes members are owed.

A spokeswoman for Bank of America said the bank is not responsible for Republic's decision.

"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 commitment to its employees," she said.

No surprise for B of A to pass the buck. Here in Chicago there is much grumbling about (no surprise) greedy ownership and management as well. Right now it seems as though both parties are more than willing to pass the buck. Meanwhile, the sit-in continues.

I'm so stirred and moved by the peaceful and yet powerful protest of these workers. So many American's are losing thier jobs right now at this most difficult time of year. Kudos to them for standing up for what they have rightly earned. I hope they inspire other laid-off workers through their actions to stand up for what is theirs.

I understand that some activists have been delivering gifts of food to the workers at the factory. I have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

Yay for Chicago and th elegacy of our deep labor history. Studs Terkel would have been so proud! Look what happens when you have too many community organizers on the streets!

My heart goes out to everyone losing their jobs right now. I am so blessed to have my part-time college faculty job, but as my partner-in-life is a Real Estate agent, we too are feeling the pain of this craptastic economy.

I would also like to draw your attention to this diary by ChicagoLife on the same subject that has some different information. Thanks!

Originally posted to LaKathie on Sat Dec 06, 2008 at 11:57 AM PST.

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