Monday, December 8, 2008

Beleaguered Workers Turn to Sit-Down Strikes

BOULDER, Colorado -- The laid-off employees of the Republic Doors and Windows factory in Chicago's North End are refusing to leave the factory. The company laid off 250 workers, and the former employees are claiming that Republic failed to properly notify them of the impending layoffs, the New York Times reported Monday. The workers have occupied the building since Friday, and they have no intention of leaving any time soon.

As the Times noted, the sit-in is vaguely reminiscent of the strikes in Michigan in the 1930's that led to the creation of the United Auto Workers union. One of the most important of these was the strike at the General Motors Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint in 1936-37, when workers occupied the plant for 44 days before management caved to their demands. Here's an article from the Detroit News chronicling those events, which were also mentioned in Michael Moore's documentary Roger & Me:

Close to 1,000 workers were holed up in Plant No. 1, surrounded by 4,000 National Guardsmen, and there were a number of violent clashes during the long siege; the action was part of a nationwide strike at GM plants that involved 135,000 workers in 35 plants in 14 states. That's a far cry from these 250 window assemblers, but in these tough times, someone has got to stand up (or sit down) to save their jobs.

The Republic employees are members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, or UE - check out their website to see what you can do to help these workers.

Another party implicated in these layoffs is Bank of America, which is well on its way to becoming exactly that - the only bank in America. Republic claims it had to cut vacation and severance pay because BoA had revoked their line of credit; this came not long after the bank had received billions in taxpayer dollars to restore its ability to lend money to customers.

New England residents learned not to trust Bank of America years ago. In 2004, after acquiring FleetBoston bank, BoA laid off more than 1,000 workers in Massachusetts after making repeated promises that they would maintain Fleet's current levels of employment as a condition of the merger. I don't know how implicated they are in this Republic deal, but basically, they can go to hell, and I will never, ever bank with them.

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