After Layoffs, Workers Stay at a Factory in Protest

In the New York Times Saturday, by MONICA DAVEY:

CHICAGO — Scores of workers laid off from a factory here that makes windows and doors have refused to leave, deciding to stage a “peaceful occupation” of the plant around the clock this weekend as they demand pay they say is owed them.

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors, which laid off about 250 people, said they were notified Tuesday that the plant, more than four decades old, would close Friday. They said they were given insufficient notice and were never paid for vacation days or severance.

The workers, many of whom were sitting on fold-up chairs on the factory floor Saturday afternoon, said they would not leave.

“They’re staying because the fact is that these workers feel they have nothing to lose at this point,” said Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110, who said groups of 30 were occupying the plant in shifts. “Telling them they have three days before they are out on the street, penniless, is outrageous.”

Officials from the company, which makes vinyl windows and patio doors, were not at the plant on Saturday and could not be reached by telephone.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the company’s leader had reported that sales had fallen drastically over the last month.

The Chicago police said they were monitoring the situation but had no reason to remove the workers. “We haven’t got any reports of a criminal nature at this time,” a police spokesman said.

Workers blamed Bank of America, which they said had served as an important lender to Republic Windows, for cutting off credit to the company and preventing workers from being paid. Some workers carried signs and stickers criticizing the bank: “You got bailed out, we got sold out.”

A spokeswoman for Bank of America, Julie Westermann, said in a written statement that “because of our client confidentiality obligations, we cannot comment on any individual clients’ situations.” But Ms. Westermann noted, “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.”

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, said union leaders hoped to meet Monday afternoon with the company’s leaders and its lenders.

Meanwhile, workers said they were going nowhere.

“It came as a complete surprise,” said Lalo Muñoz, 54, who had worked at Republic for 34 years and who spent the night on the factory floor Friday and was still there Saturday afternoon. “We’re waiting for answers.”


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