Sunday, December 07, 2008

Καταληψεις Εργοστασιων στην Αμερικη...

New York Times
December 8, 2008
In Factory Sit-In, an Anger Spread Wide
CHICAGO — The scene inside a long, low-slung factory on this city’s
North Side this weekend offered a glimpse at how the nation’s loss of
more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs in a year of recession is boiling
Workers laid off Friday from Republic Windows and Doors, who for years
assembled vinyl windows and sliding doors here, said they would not
leave, even after company officials announced that the factory was
Some of the plant’s 250 workers stayed all night, all weekend, in what
they were calling an occupation of the factory. Their sharpest
criticisms were aimed at their former bosses, who they said gave them
only three days’ notice of the closing, and the company’s creditors.
But their anger stretched broadly to the government’s costly corporate
bailout plans, which, they argued, had forgotten about regular
“They want the poor person to stay down,” said Silvia Mazon, 47, a
mother of two who worked as an assembler here for 13 years and said
she had never before been the sort to march in protests or make a
fuss. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s
fair and what’s ours. They thought they would get rid of us easily,
but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”
The workers, members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and
Machine Workers of America, said they were owed vacation and severance
pay and were not given the 60 days of notice generally required by
federal law when companies make layoffs. Lisa Madigan, the attorney
general of Illinois, said her office was investigating, and
representatives from her office interviewed workers at the plant on
At a news conference Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said the
company should follow through on its commitments to its workers.
“The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they
have earned,” Mr. Obama said, “I think they’re absolutely right and
understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s
happening across this economy.”
Company officials, who were no longer at the factory, did not return
telephone or e-mail messages. A meeting between the owners and workers
is scheduled for Monday. The company, which was founded in 1965 and
once employed more than 700 people, had struggled in recent months as
home construction dipped, workers said.
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.
Workers also pointedly blamed Bank of America, a lender to Republic
Windows, saying the bank had prevented the company from paying them
what they were owed, particularly for vacation time accrued.
“Here the banks like Bank of America get a bailout, but workers cannot
be paid?” said Leah Fried, an organizer with the union workers. “The
taxpayers would like to see that bailout go toward saving jobs, not
saving C.E.O.’s.”
In a statement issued Saturday, Bank of America officials said they
could not comment on an individual client’s situation because of
confidentiality obligations. Still, a spokeswoman also said, “Neither
Bank of America nor any other third party lender to the company has
the right to control whether the company complies with applicable laws
or honors its commitments to its employees.”
Inside the factory, the “occupation” was relatively quiet. The Chicago
police said that they were monitoring the situation but that they had
had no reports of a criminal matter to investigate.
About 30 workers sat in folding chairs on the factory floor.
(Reporters and supporters were not allowed to enter, but the workers
could be observed through an open door.) They came in shifts around
the clock. They tidied things. They shoveled snow. They met with
visiting leaders, including Representatives Luis V. Gutierrez and Jan
Schakowsky, both Democrats from Illinois, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Throughout the weekend, people came by with donations of food, water
and other supplies.
The workers said they were determined to keep their action —
reminiscent, union leaders said, of autoworkers’ efforts in Michigan
in the 1930s — peaceful and to preserve the factory.
“The fact is that workers really feel like they have nothing to lose
at this point,” Ms. Fried said. “It shows something about our economic
times, and it says something about how people feel about the bailout.”
Until last Tuesday, many workers here said, they had no sense that
there was any problem. Shortly before 1 p.m. that day, workers were
told in a meeting that the plant would close Friday, they said. Some
people wept, others expressed fury.
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.
“This never happens — to take a company from the inside,” Ms. Mazon
said. “But I’m fighting for my family, and we’re not going anywhere.”

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