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Rally at Republic

It was the workers who made these windows,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez at Republic Windows and Doors yesterday. “These windows belong to the workers until they are paid for.”

He spoke during a rally of Republic workers and supporters in the cold and snow outside the occupied factory Saturday afternoon. Supporters included members of Teamsters, SEIU, UAW, AFSCME, United Steelworkers, and the Chicago Teachers Union. Republic workers are represented by United Electrical Workers Local 1110.

Federal law requires 60 days of pay — and state law requires 75 — when a plant is shut down without notice, Gutierrez said. It also mandates continued health coverage for that period, he emphasized.

Workers’ anger was fueled by the announcement that vacation and legally-mandated severance pay would not be forthcoming — according to union, the company’s bank, Bank of America, refused to allow the payments. (Bank officials have denied the charge.) Earlier the union had denounced Bank of America for failing to use $25 billion in federal bailout funds to maintain credit for businesses. There is widespread consensus supporting that charge.

Gutierrez said he had contacted state regulators and that they are prepared to use all their investigatory powers, including examining tax records and subpoenaing financial records, if the state’s plant closing notification law isn’t followed.

Carl Rosen, regional president of UE, said the union would file a complaint Monday.

“I don’t believe somebody woke up Tuesday morning and decided to close this plant,” Gutierrez said. “I believe somebody knew this was going to happen and wanted to walk away without paying what the law requires — and we are going to make sure that the law is enforced.”

He added: “If they are violating the law they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Gutierrez said Republic Window officials, who skipped a Friday meeting called by the congressman, had agreed to a Monday meeting and had signed a financial confidentiality waiver.

Rosen said if no settlement is reached at that meeting, workers and supporters would protest at Bank of America’s LaSalle Street office on Tuesday.

“This is broad-daylight theft,” said James Thindwa of Chicago Jobs With Justice. “They are taking money from workers that they have earned.”

“I believe this is not fair, what the company is doing to the employees,” said Lalo Munoz, the plant’s most senior worker, with 34 years at Republic.

“We are going to stay here until we have answers,” he said. “I hope Bank of America will try to resolve the problem.”

“We’re not just losing our jobs — some employees are going to lose their homes, too,” Munoz said, pointing out that they face a job market with cascading unemployment.

Rev. C. J. Hawking of the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues invoked the memory of Flint sit-down strikers and the sit-ins of the civil rights movement as “examples that sitting down is a way of standing up.”

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Category: banks & credit, economy, jobs, labor

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