Laid-Off Chicago Workers Occupy Plant
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered all state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America to pressure the company to help workers who are staging a sit-in at a shuttered Chicago plant.
The move is leverage to convince the North Carolina-based bank to use some of its federal bailout money to resolve the situation at Republic Windows and Doors.
The company closed last week with just a few days’ notice.
Blagojevich says banks got bailout money and should provide lines of credit to businesses that need it so workers can keep working.
Chicago workers in the third day of a sit-in on the floor of their former workplace peered through the windows of a door, amazed by a mix of supporters, politicians and journalists who packed a foyer outside.
“We never expected this,” said Melvin Maclin, a factory employee and vice president of the local union that represents the workers. “We expected to go to jail.”
The 200 workers demanding severance and vacation pay have become a national symbol for thousands of employees laid off nationwide as the economy continues to sour. They occupied the plant of their former employer, Republic Windows and Doors, after the company abruptly fired them last week.
“There is one thing that is absolutely clear,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, told CBS Station WBBM. “They’re owed 75 days of pay. They’re owed their vacation time, and they’re owed their fringe benefits – including healthcare benefits – during those 75 days.”
Gutierrez added that Republic’s abrupt decision to shut down is suspicious. He said he has a “very strong belief” that Republic is simply “recapitalizing and reorganizing its production in another state,” and called on the Illinois Department of Labor to investigate, according to WBBM.