Chicago workers vote to end sit-in

December 10, 2008 7:48:31 PM PST
Workers have approved a $1.75 million agreement, ending a sit-in that lasted six days at a Chicago window and door factory. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez says each former Republic Windows & Door employee will get eight weeks salary, all accrued vacation pay and two months paid health care. He says it works out to about $7,000 for each worker.

Parties including the plant's owners, union leaders and Bank of America forged the agreement Wednesday.

Gutierrez says $1.75 million will go into an escrow account for the workers.

Bank of America spokeswoman Julie Westermann says the company loaned $1.35 million. Gutierrez says JPMorgan Chase & Co. added $400,000.

Workers began their sit-in after Republic gave them three days notice the plant was closing.

Wednesday was the sixth day of negotiations at the Bank of America headquarters in Chicago. Congressman Luis Gutierrez arrived a little after 1 p.m. He said he was on hand Tuesday for over 10 hours and added he will remain in Chicago until this issue is resolved.

"I was here Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, today is Wednesday. I'm going to see this to the very end," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D) Chicago.

Nearly 1,000 individuals from various organizations joined forces with the workers from Republic Windows and Doors to rally outside Bank of America. The group is demanding justice for the over 300 workers laid off by the factory when they lost Bank of America financing.

"Especially knowing that there is a new factory that's been purchased, we know this is really a form of wage theft. This is a way of avoiding a union contract. This is a way of denying the workers their pay," said Adam Kader, Director, Workers Center.

"Bank of America got $25 billion from this bailout. What we're saying is there needs to be a people's bailout," said Elce Redmond, South Austin Coalition.

"The teamsters are out here to support the workers of UE 1110, fighting a just fight for workers across the United States," said Richard Berg, Teamsters Local 743 president.

This was the sixth day of the sit-in as workers refuse to leave the plant until their demands are met for accrued vacation and severance. They have become a symbol for the plight of the working man across the country.

"Everybody trying to make a hero of us. I'm no hero. Every people is hero, because they support us," said Ricardo Caceras, laid off worker.

Congressman Gutierrez met with Republic representatives Wednesday, union officials and Bank of America officials, and JP Morgan Chase to negotiate a deal for the laid off employees.

Tuesday, Bank of America agreed to extend credit to the window and door plant so that it could resolve additional claims by employees.


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