Not Budging

This story caught my attention last Thursday regarding Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 was notified Tuesday that the company was closing and that all of its 239 employees would be out of work.

“We were told that Bank of America cut off their financing,” said Leah Fried, an organizer for the union.

A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment./em>

According to an email from ANSWER, “Republic Windows and Doors is planning to move its plant to Iowa because of cheaper labor costs, and to get out of union obligations with the United Electrical Workers Union. Workers across the country are paying a heavy price for the bank’s and corporations’ theft. It’s time for the bankers and companies to pay, NOT THE WORKERS!”

And then I read this in the story from the NY Times:

Still, as they milled around the factory’s entrance this weekend, some workers said they doubted that the company was really in financial straits, and they suggested that it would reopen elsewhere with cheaper costs and lower pay. Others said managers had kept their struggles secret, at one point before Thanksgiving removing heavy equipment in the middle of the night but claiming, when asked about it, that all was well….

Many employees said they had worked in the factory for decades. Lalo Muñoz, who was among those sleeping over in the building, said he arrived 34 years ago. The workers — about 80 percent of them Hispanic, with the rest black or of other ethnic and national backgrounds — made $14 an hour on average and received health care and retirement benefits, Ms. Fried said.

So the company is lying to its workers. ‘Everything is just fine; don’t worry.’ Then suddenly the employees are out of jobs. They’re owed back wages and benefits; they want their wages and severance pay, and most likely Cobra to continue with medical benefits.

Sunday, President-elect Obama addressed these worker’s concern when announcing General Shinseki for VA head.

“The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they’re absolutely right and understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy,” Obama said at a news conference Sunday.

This evening, Rachel Maddow spoke with a union representative and one of the employees who, if I remember correctly, had been with this company for 17 years.  She did a great job of tying in Ronald Reagan’s union busting of the air traffic controllers in the 80s to the current debacle with Republic Window & Door in Chicago.

There’s a tie-in with Bank of America.  Bank of America received $15 billion in bail-out funds and are set to receive another $10 billion (via Merrill Lynch, who BofA is purchasing).  BofA refused an extension of the loan Republic had with BofA. Because…..as further proof the company was lying to their employees, according to Bloomberg:

Republic told the bank on Oct. 16 it planned to cease manufacturing in January after losing $5.7 million during the first nine months of this year and a total of $12.7 million in 2007 and 2006, according to a press release.

Sooo…now the Illinois governor is involved by threatening to restrict or cut off state entities doing business with Bank of America, and according to John Douglas, an attorney with Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker in Atlanta, said Blagojevich and Senator Christopher Dodd — who called on General Motors Corp. to fire Chief Executive Rick Wagoner — can’t tell companies how to run their business.

Hmmm – ya know, I might agree with Mr. Douglas.  However when a huge bank like Bank of America receives money from the U.S. government then they can just spend some time accounting for that money. And if they don’t want to answer to the likes of Chris Dodd or the governor of Illinois, then perhaps the bank should’ve passed on the funding from U.S. taxpayers – present and future. This story by the Chicago Sun Times lays out some consequences to be faced by  Bank of America following the governor’s decision. There’s also this….

Republic Windows executives, who had stayed silent, issued a statement Monday outlining their efforts to wind down Republic operations over several months. Republic executives said the Bank of America insisted on a quicker shut down and rejected Republic’s request to pay employees vacation pay.

Bank of America has insisted it is not responsible for Republic’s financial obligations to its employees. The bank issued a statement Monday saying Republic Windows and Doors “should do all it can to honor its obligations to its employees and minimize the impact of failure on those employees.” But Bank of America said it had provided the “maximum amount of funding we can under the terms of this agreement.”

But, aldermen and union leaders don’t see it that way. Not when Bank of America is using $34 billion in loans and grants from the Wall Street bailout.

Bingo!

It is TIME to start looking out for the American worker and in my mind it should never have gotten away from that.


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