12/10/2008

Laid-Off Workers Occupy Chicago Factory, Seek Pay

Invoking Main Street resentment of Wall Street's federal bailout, some 200 workers entered their third day of occupying a shuttered Chicago window and door factory on Sunday, demanding that Bank of America agree to pay them severance plus vacation pay.

Workers belonging to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union began their peaceful occupation of the plant on Friday after family-owned Republic Windows & Doors said it was closing after Bank of America canceled its line of credit.

The workers said Republic Windows & Doors gave them only three days notice of Friday's closing instead of the 60 days required by law, and owes them roughly $3,500 per worker including unused vacation pay.

A union spokeswoman said Bank of America is not letting the company pay the workers.

"We're just shocked that Bank of America, after receiving $25 billion in bailout money, not only do they refuse to extend credit to companies but, to add insult to injury, they don't allow these companies to fulfill their legal obligations to their workers," union spokeswoman Leah Fried said.

The downturn in home construction doomed the plant, which has manufactured windows and doors for more than 30 years.

Bank of America was among several U.S. banks to receive funding from a $700 billion federal bailout package designed to stabilize the financial system.

The laid-off workers hoisted placards saying, "Bank of America: You got bailed out. We got sold out."

According to the Chicago Tribune, the bank said it was not responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees. A Bank of America spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Officials of Republic Windows & Doors also could not be reached for comment.

The parties were expected to meet on Monday.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, and Chicago-based civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson were lending support to the workers.

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