Thursday, March 08, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #47 - Part 1

Successful labor sit-in with support of Occupy

This is old news as the Internet flies, but it's still worth noting.

Some of you may remember the case of Republic Windows and Doors. This was a company outside Chicago that in 2008 closed its factory without the legally-required notice to its 250 employees - which also meant denying them the severance, accrued vacation time, and temporary health benefits to which they were entitled.

Instead of passively accepting this like good little drones were supposed to, the workers, members of the United Electrical Workers, occupied the plant, refusing to leave. In one of those happy unusual occasions, the sit-in caught the attention of the media and the public, attention that got intensified when it was revealed that the reason the plant was closing was that Bank of America, which just a few days earlier had received $25 billion in bailout funds from the federal government, had cut off the company's credit line.

After six days, the workers won: BoA agreed to renew the credit line so the company could pay the workers what it owed them. What’s more, a new company, Serious Energy, bought the factory and pledged to rehire all of the fired workers. Serious began production with a fraction of the former workforce, hoping that business would soon pick up. But it didn't.

The union agreed the company wasn't doing well, but was still blindsided by the company's announcement on February 23 that the company wqs closing immediately. When the union said it wanted time to find a buyer for the factory so workers would not lose their jobs, the company refused.

So the plant is closing. Again. So what's the good news?

The good news is that "it's déjà vu all over again." There was another sit-in at the plant, this one aided by outside support from Occupy Chicago, which organized media coverage, food for occupiers of the plant, and a presence on the street outside that dissuaded - and I mean dissuaded, not blocked - the police from arresting the union members inside the plant. In less than 24 hours, an agreement had been reached for the plant to remain open an additional 90 days to give time to find a buyer or for the workers to buy it themselves.

By the way, members of the union credited the involvement of Occupy for the quick resolution, saying the corporation "panicked" when they heard Occupy Chicago was present and quickly came to an agreement.


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