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Charlotte, NC – December 7, 2008
UE Information Flier
for download and distribution (pdf)
Members of UE’s North Carolina Local 150 will protest Monday at the Charlotte national headquarters of Bank of America, in support of UE members in Chicago who are occupying their factory, Republic Windows and Doors. National news media have been reporting over the weekend on the ongoing factory sit-in by the Chicago union members. The workers are members of UE Local 1110. The plant suddenly shut down on Friday, December 5 with only three days notice to the union and workers, and without paying workers money they are owed.
Local 150 members, community supporters, and students will take part in the picket and rally at 12:30 p.m. Monday, December 8, in front of Bank of America at the corner of Trade Street and Tryon Street in Charlotte.
Bank of America is Republic’s main creditor and controls the company’s day-to-day finances. The plant closing was precipitated by the bank cutting off credit to Republic. Bank of America received $25 billion in federal funds as part of the recent $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. But rather than using that taxpayer money to keep credit flowing to businesses and retain jobs, the union charges, Bank of America is causing these workers, who manufacture energy-efficient doors and windows, to lose their jobs. The bank even refused to authorize the release of money needed to pay workers their earned vacation pay, and compensation they are owed under the federal WARN Act because they were not given the legally-required notice that the plant would close.
Angaza Laughinghouse, President of UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, says, “We are outraged that any bank receiving taxpayer bailout funds would bring about a plant closing and then deny workers their legally-due notice and pay. We are even more ashamed that it is Bank of America, based in our state. We will do everything possible here in North Carolina to help our brothers and sisters in Chicago win this important battle for workers all over the country.”
Report: Barack Obama Sides with UE Members in Chicago
Chicago, December 7, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama has placed himself on the side of UE members occupying their workplace in Chicago, according to a report published by the Chicago Sun-Times on its website Sunday.
The Sun-Times quotes Obama as saying, “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right . . . what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”
Schakowsky: “Require Banks to Use Taxpayers’ Money to Benefit Workers”
Meanwhile, Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky was at the plant Sunday afternoon to show her support for the UE Local 1110 members’ demands that the company and its chief creditor, Bank of America, meet their obligations to company’s 300 workers.
In a press release issued earlier in the day, Schakowsky indicated she supports the efforts of Congressman Luis Gutierrez to negotiate a suitable agreement.
Schakowsky added that she will work with him and other members of the delegation to get the Treasury Department to require that banks such as Bank of America that have received taxpayer financing use these funds to benefit America’s workers.
Jackson: Food, Support, and Encouragement
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was also at the plant this morning, delivering food to the workers. He addressed the UE members and their supporters offering his support and encouragement.
“These workers are to this struggle perhaps what Rosa Parks was to social justice 50 years ago,” Jackson said. “This, in many ways, is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”
Members of UE Local 1110 who work at Republic Windows and Doors have been occupying the plant since Friday evening. All 260 members of the local were laid off Friday in a sudden plant closing, brought on by a decision made by Bank of America to cut off operating credit to the company. The bank reportedly even refused to authorize the release of money Republic needed to pay workers their earned vacation pay, and compensation they are owed under the federal WARN Act because they were not given the legally-required notice that the plant was about to close.
“Safeguarding Assets” — and Perhaps Their Future
“The bank has the money in this situation,” said UE International Representative Mark Meinster, “and we are demanding that Bank of America release the money owed to workers who have earned it and are entitled to it”
“We’re occupying the plant to guard its assets and keep everything safe,” said Meinster. The workers have vowed to stay inside at least until they are paid — and to push for possibility of keeping the plant open.
Bank of America, the country’s second largest bank, has received $25 billion in taxpayer money as part of the $700 billion government bailout of the financial industry. The public was told that this bailout was necessary in order to keep credit flowing and prevent the loss of jobs. Yet the bank, by cutting its line of credit to Republic, forced the closing of a plant where workers were, at least up until Friday, producing energy-efficient doors and windows.
Jobs with Justice Campaign
Jobs with Justice, the national worker rights coalition, is asking people to sign an online letter to Bank of America, demanding that they provide the needed credit to keep Republic Windows and Doors open — or at a minimum, that they pay workers the money they are owed. Please go to this link to support this important struggle.
UE Local 1110 members, along with community supporters, picketed and rallied in front of Bank of America’s main Chicago branch on Wednesday, December 3. They chanted, “You got bailed out, we got sold out!” Local 1110 President Armando Robles told the news media, “Just weeks before Christmas we are told our factory will close in three days. Taxpayers gave Bank of America billions, and they turn around and close our company. We will fight for a bailout for workers.”
“Labor Protest: Laid-off Workers Take Over Factory,”
Interview with Laid-off Worker Vicente Rangel, CNN
For future updates on this unfolding struggle, go to <www.ueunion.org/>.