Bank of America's Greed Sparked the Eye-Opening Worker's Strike in Chicago

The following is written by a field organizer for the union involved in the sitdown strike at a Chicago factory:


It seems like forever now that we have been hearing about the importance of the Wall Street "bailout", and how that was the only way that we as taxpayers could avoid an even worse financial crisis in the U.S. The idea was that if we gave the big banks and credit markets access to about $700 billion dollars (or so), they would in turn help small businesses to keep operating and keep U.S. workers employed.

At least that's what I thought it was supposed to be about.

Tell that to the 300 United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) members that, up until this past Friday, had jobs at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago.

Bank of America, our country's second largest bank, did indeed take $25 billion dollars of "bailout cash", then gave the shaft to that company and its workers by refusing to renew and extend it any operating credit to stay in business through the economic downturn. Just close the doors and throw the workers out onto the street without any notice in freezing temperatures right before the holidays, Bank of America said, and don't bother paying them any vacation or severance pay either. Oh, and just cancel everyone's health insurance while you're at it. Sorry about those pregnant workers, too.

Well, these UE members decided they were NOT going to be put out into the streets like animals, and they would just take over the factory until they got what they had coming to them. This is just simple fairness and self-preservation, but what is happening in Chicago needs to be talked about and actively supported by all working people in this country . Because you are next. We are all next, if we let Bank of America take our money and use it to fatten their profit margin and bottom line instead of what it was supposed to be used for: Helping regular hard working Americans like the sisters and brothers at Republic.

Ron Bender, a UE member and 14-year machine operator at Republic said it best . "We're doing this for the other working people in the country. What's happened to us can happen to anyone -- they could just close up and put you out and give you no severance pay."

***

The following story is from UE’s site: Chicago Aldermen Aim to End City's Business with Bank of America

A contingent of 15 Chicago aldermen said today they will introduce an ordinance to require the city to stop doing any business with the Bank of America.

Bank of America cut off its line of credit to Republic Windows and Doors, causing the Chicago company to halt operations on Friday, December 5 and terminate its 250 workers with only three days notice, and without receiving their earned vacation pay, as well as compensation they are entitled to under the WARN Act. The workers' situation attracted world-wide attention begining Friday evening, when they began occupying the plant, refusing to leave until Bank of America, the company and other creditors honor their obligations to employees. 'Outrageous, Unfair and Arrogant'

"It is outrageous for Bank of America to cut off credit, a company's lifeblood, after receiving $15 billion of taxpayers' money as part of the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)," said Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward). Bank of America also has raised $9 billion in taxpayer guaranteed loans and is expected to receive another $10 billion in TARP funds in the next two weeks.

"It's not only unfair to the workers, but also Bank of America is thumbing its nose at Congress by taking federal recovery funds while refusing to extend credit to a small manufacturing company with a long history of profitability," said Thomas Balanoff, president of SEIU Illinois Council. "Bank of America's withdrawal of credit also contradicts and undercuts President-elect Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the depressed economy by investing in weatherization of existing homes and buildings and in other infrastructure and energy-saving construction," Balanoff added. 'Greater Demand with Obama's Proposals'

"The workers want Bank of America to keep the plant open and the workers employed," said Carl Rosen, president of UE, the union that represents the Republic workers. "There is always a demand for windows and doors. But with Barack Obama's stimulus proposal, there will be even greater demand for the products made by Republic's workers. It doesn't make sense to close this plant when the need is so obvious," he added.

The ordinance requires that any City of Chicago funds deposited at Bank of America, or any of its subsidiaries, be removed and placed with another suitable bank. It also states that Bank of America shall not be selected to underwrite, sell, market or re-market any City of Chicago bonds without the explicit approval of City Council. 'We Have a Right to be Treated Fairly'

The ordinance also contains a provision requiring that any proposed change in zoning of a property owned by Bank of America, or any of its subsidiaries, be brought individually before the full City Council for evaluation and approval.

"Under the law, the City Council has the authority and responsibility to take into account the interests of Chicago and its residents when deciding which banks to do business with," said Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward). "Bank of America profits handsomely from the business it gets from the City and other governments. We have a right to demand that workers are treated fairly."

Cook County Commissioner Michael Quigley is preparing a similar ordinance to curtail the county's business with Bank of America.

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