Workers occupy building to protest layoffs

December 6, 2008 8:53:06 AM PST
Hundreds of workers are barricaded in a business on the Near North Side.The Republic Windows and Doors company shut down Friday leaving the employees out in the cold.

They were inside the building demanding they be paid the wages they say they are entitled to.

Negotiations were underway between the workers who have been notified that they'd be laid off, the company and the company's bank, Bank of America. This is all being done with the help of Congressman Luis Gutierrez. The location of the negotiation is undisclosed, but it is somewhere downtown. In the meantime, the workers plan to stay put in protest.

"We'll be here for as long as it takes. We're not leaving. We're going to be here as long as it takes," said Eric Ramos, laid off worker.

And with that passion and determination, about 200 laid off workers of Republic Windows and Doors have decided to take a stand at 1333 N. Hickory in Chicago. They planned to stay inside the company's building until a settlement is reached between them and the company's bank.

Local 1110 represents the workers and union representatives say under state and federal laws, Bank of America is responsible for paying vacation pay and perhaps 60 days of pay because the workers were given a last-minute notice for losing their paychecks and their benefits.

"It's really, really hard for everybody and not just because we're losing our jobs. It's because we're losing our insurance, too. They told us that we're going to be covered until December 15. And now they come and told us that last night, the insurance were down. So nobody has insurance right now," said Raul Flores, laid off workers.

And losing their jobs comes just weeks before the holiday.

"I have three kids to support, and I have three kids to give presents. If in this moment I feel like I'm not even going to have money to have for Christmas night," said Armando Robles, laid off worker.

Representatives for the company as well as Bank of America had yet to comment.

"The problem is Bank of America pulled their financing, so they had to close," said Mark Meinster, United Electrical Workers spokesman. "So, Bank of America is standing in the way."

The workers say they understand that companies are closing during these tough economic times. They say laws, especially when losing your job, should be followed.

"We feel mistreated. We don't make business decisions. We just make windows but because of bad decisions we suffer, our families suffer," said Melvin Maclin.

Gutierrez set up a meeting earlier Friday, but the company did not show up.

"It is patently wrong, and in my estimation, illegal to simply walk away from these workers," said Gutierrez, (D) 4th District. "They should have a sense of decency and respect for people who have worked here for 34 years, who have given their life to this company. They shouldn't walk away from them."

The congressman said he wants the company disclose its financial records. In the meantime, the former employees are considering their futures.

"I got family. I got another one coming. I have to pay for my house, like you, it's really bad," said laid off worker Apolinar Cabrera.


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