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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.

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Sit-down at Republic Windows

Workers have refused to leave the Republic Windows and Doors plant on Goose Island, which shut down at 10 a.m. this morning.  They are demanding that Bank of America agree to stop blocking payment of vacation pay and compensation owed under federal and state plant closing notification laws.

United Electrical Workers, the union representing over 200 Republic workers, has charged that the company was forced to close because Bank of America has refused to use billions of dollars in federal bailout funds to maintain credit lines to longtime customers.

The sit-down comes a little more than 72 years after the first sit-down strike by Bendix workers in South Bend, Indiana, and three weeks before the 72nd anniversary of the ephochal 44-day Flint sit-down strike, which forced General Motors to recognize the United Auto Workers.

Republic workers have vowed to stay in their old factory until Bank of America negotiates a settlement.  Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s office is working to bring the parties together for a meeting this afternoon, according to UE.

See recent Newstips — Credit Crunch Threatens Local Plant and Update: Republic Windows to Close — also the Newstips blog on why banks aren’t using bailout funds to lend.

Update: Republic Windows to close

“Just weeks before Christmas, we are told that our factory will close — in three days,” said Armando Robles, an employee of Republic Windows and Doors and president of the United Electrical Workers local there.

As Newstips reported last week, the issue for the union is Bank of America’s refusal to extend Republic’s credit line — despite receiving $25 billion in government bailout funds intended to free up lending.

Now workers are being told Bank of America is blocking payment of vacation pay and the 60 days of pay required by federal law when 60-day notice of a plant closing isn’t given.

Republic workers, joined by concerned clergy and community members, will picket Bank of America to demand payments required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. A press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. outside the bank at 231 S. LaSalle.

The company informed the union on Tuesday that it would discontinue all of its operations, with employees terminated as of Friday, December 5, according to Mark Meinster of UE.

According to Meinster, Republic had a $5 million line of credit with Bank of America which he believes originated at LaSalle Bank, which BOA bought out last year.

Hurt by the housing depression, Republic had shifted to making replacement windows, Meinster said.

Illinois manufacturers that would have struggled through tough times are being forced to close because their credit is being cut off, said Glenn Johnson, former chairman of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.

“I’m hearing horror stories about banks coming in and saying, it’s been a great relationship and we’ll miss you, but we just don’t like your numbers, and we’re just not going to renew your line of credit,” Johnson said. Sales are down, hurting cash flow, but “absolutely, any company is going to try to make it through.”

“It irritates a lot of people in manufacturing” that banks received bailout money “that was supposed to ease up credit” and continue to refuse to make loans, Johnson said.

Re. Republic Windows – more on ‘credit crunch’

A local manufacturer is threatened with closing because Bank of America isn’t using bailout funds to maintain ongoing credit needed to keep businesses going — and employees of Republic Windows and Doors, 1333  N. Hickory, and their union are pressuring the bank to act.  A Tuesday morning meeting is reportedly scheduled.  (More here.)

At a New York Times blog, a bank executive explains why big banks are using bailout funds to extend credit — basically, because they aren’t required to.

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Credit crunch threatens local plant

The credit crunch — and the failure of big banks to use federal bailout funds to free up credit — could hit a local manufacturer, where workers were told denial of routine credit by Bank of America could force them to close down.

Clergy and community supporters joined workers from Republic Windows and Doors, 1333 N. Hickory, who picketed Bank of America on LaSalle Street yesterday, demanding that bailout money be used to keep Republic’s credit line open.

On Monday morning Republic managers told the plant’s union committee that they would be unable to continue operations unless they could get credit needed to buy materials and make payroll, said Mark Meinster of United Electrical Workers, which represents most of the plant’s 300 workers.

“This is really what the bailout money should be going to,” Meinster said. “If the bailout was to free up the credit market, Republic should be getting financing.”

Bank of America received $15 billion in bailout funds, and a few weeks later invested $7 billion in the China Construction Bank. Federal agencies gave banks $125 billion last month, saying they “expect all banking organizations to fulfill their fundamental role in the economy as intermediaries of credit to businesses, consumers, and other creditworthy borrowers” — but setting no actual requirements, according to the New York Times.

Republic Windows, in existence since 1965 and a longtime Bank of America customer, “is a company that under normal circumstances would be able to continue their operation,” Meinster said.

He said workers were concerned because the company moved some equipment out of the plant last weekend — they were told it was being returned to leasing companies — and managers were removing computers and files.

“They told us everything hinges on financing from Bank of America,” Meinster said. “They said they hope to keep operating but it’s day-to-day.”

He said the union got “no firm commitment” that legal requirements for 60-day notice or 60 days of pay, along with all owed benefits, would be met.

Republic told union officials a meeting with the bank is scheduled for next Tuesday, Meinster said.


See also: Re. Republic – more on the ‘credit crunch’

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