Saturday, December 06, 2008
CHICAGO -- Workers laid off from their jobs at a factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay that they say they are owed.
About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant's operation. On Saturday, about 50 workers could be seen through a window sitting on chairs and pallets on the factory floor. Reporters were asked to stay out of the plant's work area.
"We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she's owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory's workers are Hispanic.
Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.
Workers also were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, Fried said.
During the peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.
"We're doing something we haven't since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," Fried said.
Oh yes we can.