On Monday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a lead story about the occupation of a Chicago factory in the business section of the paper. The 200-word story included a comment from one of the workers who is part of the occupation, president-elect Barack Obama, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Unfortunately for those reading the Press article, over half of the original Associate Press (AP) story was not included. The original AP version also included comments from other workers who were part of the occupation and several supporters who came to offer solidarity to those occupying the factory of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago.
Fortunately, independent news media has made this story much more visible over the past few days.
Lee Sustar and Nicole Colson of the Socialist Worker wrote:
“The 250 workers, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, are demanding that Bank of America either resume making loans to Republic to reopen the plant or help the company make good on its obligations to workers. The workers are angry that Bank of America received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout, but won’t lend to viable companies.”
Not only do these independent reporters provide a context for the action taken by the workers, they explore the reasons that Republic Windows and Doors decided to close the factory in the first place.
Employees of the Cook County Hospital in Chicago and members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee showed up to lend their support and offer this analysis:
“This is important, because this is a form of union-busting, Their contract was violated. Workers’ rights were violated, when the company just shut them out. It’s happening to them today, and it could happen to us tomorrow. You’ve got the fat cats walking away with the money and leaving all the workers here with nothing.”
Suster and Colson also discovered that the factory was not shuuting down permanently, they were just moving to another state:
“For Republic’s managers, the objective seems to be saving themselves at workers’ expense. Confirmation came on Monday that–as workers suspected–Republic is not, in fact, shutting down operations, but planning to move production to Iowa under a new name, Echo Windows & Doors.
Reports indicate that Echo would be nonunion, pay only $9 an hour, and offer workers limited benefits and no vacation pay for the first three years–a drastic cut compared to the average $14- an-hour wage and health and retirement benefits that Chicago Republic workers had been getting.”
In other news about the occupation, Democracy Now! reported today that the State of Illinois has decided to cut ties with Bank of America because of the factory’s closing. John Woodruff Jr. posted a story on AlterNet that talked a bit more about the $25 billion dollar bailout for Bank of America and what this means for the worker occupation.
One of the best pieces on the Chicago worker occupation is by Benjamin Dangl, who has written about social movements in Latin America. Dangl believes that those of us who live in the US must learn from the actions of working people in other countries, particularly Argentina where thousands of workers occupied numerous factories after the economic collapse of 2001. Dangl states that because of the worker occupations in Argentina, “There are roughly two hundred worker-run factories and businesses in Argentina, most of which started in the midst of the 2001 crisis. 15,000 people work in these cooperatives and the businesses range from car part producers to rubber balloon factories.” This movement of worker occupations is captured beautifully in Avi Lewis’ and Naomi Klein’s film, The Take.