Thursday, December 11, 2008
Setttlement at Republic Windows and Doors
Because I'm an idiot, I inadvertently deleted my previous blog post here about the sit-down strike at Republic Windows iand Doors in Chicago. Fortunately, events give me a chance to update the story.
Jobs With Justice has the following report.
Workers at Republic Window and Doors in Chicago voted to accept a settlement late last night.
The settlement totals $1.75million. It will provide the workers with:
- Eight weeks of pay they are owed under the federal WARN Act;
- Two months of continued health coverage, and;
- Pay for all accrued and unused vacation.
JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America. Although the money will be provided as a loan to Republic Windows and Doors, it will go directly into a third-party fund whose sole purpose is to pay the workers what is owed them. In addition, the UE has started the "Window of Opportunity Fund" dedicated to re-opening the plant.
As the Local 1110 leaders characterized the settlement, "We fought to make them pay what they owe us, and we won."
It's also worth quoting labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein. In a good editorial comparing and contrasting this action with the sit-down strikes during the New Deal, he writes in part:
Factory occupations are rare because they violate the everyday laws of property, and for the most part American workers are law-abiding people.
They occur only when workers feel morally aggrieved, when they sense that ownership has itself violated the law, when the boss has become the outlaw in their eyes and in that of the community as well.
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Is this a good loan? Putting aside the human element of this drama (which is admittedly compelling), I worry that banks got into trouble in the first instance for extending bad (mortgage) loans; are we now trying to guilt them into extending more bad loans? This does not seem like a sustainable strategy, if it is correct that Republic is not a trustworthy debtor. The problems of bad loans and excessive risk cannot be cured by making more bad loans and risk.
Posted by: andy | Dec 11, 2008 5:00:07 PM
I have completely mixed feelings about what happened. On the one hand, I am happy that the workers will receive the wages and benefits to which they are legally entitled. But there are so many negatives about the activism surrounding this case.
First, progressives cared very little about the company. But the company, not Bank of America, violated the workers' rights. If they had dug more deeply, they would have discovered some interesting facts. It seems that the company quietly relocated to Iowa and bought and consolidated operations with a similar company. It then discarded its Chicago workers without providing the required notice. But thanks to progressive advocacy, it has pulled off this scheme without facing any legal liability. Furthermore, the company itself received a "bailout" from the City of Chicago, in the form of nearly $10 million dollars in development grants.
Bank of America is not even guilty of wrongdoing. And the banking bailout certainly cannot require banks to provide credit on demand. Ultimately, this case really shows that we need to improve the economic safety net. Instead, progressives just rallied around traditional story lines involving a "bad" bank and "innocent" workers of a "struggling" company.
For what it's worth, I have written on these issues:
Posted by: damitajo1 | Dec 11, 2008 5:21:31 PM
I wondered what happened to your post, as I linked to it at the Ratio Juris Blog (http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/2008/12/worker-occupation-or-modern-sit-down.html) and it disappeared!
"Putting aside the human element"--lovely. Perhaps you'd benefit from a deep acquaintance with the literature and viewpoints found here: http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/2008/12/marx-marxism-very-select-bibliography.html
And thanks for linking to Lichtenstein, who teaches nearby at my alma mater and is a brilliant labor historian.
Posted by: Patirck S. O'Donnell | Dec 11, 2008 8:34:34 PM
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