My Beautiful Wickedness


Who are we? UE.
December 6, 2008, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Thanks to Nick for pointing this out.

Taft-Hartley banned sit-down strikes, but the workers of Republic Window are doing it anyhow. Good luck to them. The sit-down strike has an important role in the development of labor history and the attack on rights to strike (spearheaded by T-H, but since greatly expanded) have nearly destroyed the labor movement. These laws and ruling need to be beaten back and now; I’m all for resorting to non-violent occupation. (After all, resistance to laws that need to be changed is how things get changed.) I don’t think that it’s an accident that they have chosen to sit down in this particular plant. It’s a small group with strong ethnic/linguistic solidarity, occupying the building to get a guarantee of their already earned benefits. They are doing it in a town that is labor-friendly and labor-activist oriented. It also looks like the building is the main source of capital and the collateral for the loan — if the place gets f’ed up during a raid, the owner (or the bank that’s looking to repo it) will be out of luck. The Republic workers pretty much know that they will not stop the plant from closing down — but they do want what they are owed. Negotiations are set for December 8th between plant managers, employees, and the bank.

The story as it emerges is a familiar one to American labor. The company claims it can’t get the loans it needs to continue and begins to short-order parts, then fire people when they aren’t meeting production quotas. They sneak out production machinery during the night, preparing to move the factory somewhere else. And then, one day, you show up and you’re told the factory will be locking its doors for good that night. (Oh yeah, the WARN Act says you’re supposed to receive 60 days notice…but mostly, you don’t get that. Rights you don’t know about, you can’t exercise.) Once you’re locked out, there goes your severance pay, your earned vacation pay, and all the other stuff you already worked for. The bank says it’s sorry, the managers say they’re sorry — everyone is sorry, but you’re out of a job and they start up another factory somewhere else using the money they stole from you as their collateral. The bank, Bank of America, got a bailout from the US government to the tune of $25 billion…but they can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to loan Republic’s owners the $1.5 million that they owe workers.

It’s significant, too, that these workers are mostly Hispanic. Hispanic workers have a different history, but an equally important history of labor resistance in their home countries. If these are first-generation workers (as I assume they are), they have watched their nations’ economies be gutted by NAFTA. UE workers are often in the vanguard of protesting the free flow of capital to the harm of North American workers for the last fifteen years. From reading interviews, it looks like the Republic workers have been working there for 8-12 years and are either recently naturalized or are in the naturalization process. That means that they’ve been screwed on both ends of the bridge to opportunity.

UE has both reached out to (and had great success with) workers that other unions didn’t want to organize — black, brown, small shops, women, non-industrial, even academic. When I was organizing for UE we joked and said that we repped anyone who worked under a light bulb. Turns out that these workers really get what it means to work for rights. This particular group of workers came into the UE in 2004, choosing to switch union affiliations because they were tired of being repped by the reputedly corrupt and decidedly ineffective Central States Joint Board. They’ve had a recent history of picketing and petitioning and shop-floor rights assertion, so this is not their first rodeo. They are pretty tough cookies.

Remember, though, they aren’t sitting in at this time of year for their health — they’re liable to get their heads busted for doing this. At the very least, the owner will cut the lights and the heat and the water, so they’ll be cold, hungry, uncomfortable, thirsty, and bored. But don’t doubt it….they aren’t just there for themselves, but for you and for me and anyone who wants to receive the wages that they’re owed from their employers. I have great confidence, knowing how the UE organizes and operates, that the risks of what the Republic Window workers have chosen to do has been explained to them. (UE has a great labor ed program — their workers are some of the best versed in the history of working struggle in the US and abroad).

Many of the best blog posts I’ve read lately boil down to — Nobody’s coming to bail us out. It’s up to us. These guys have figured it out. I’m attaching strike fund information. Consider throwing some money their way.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

If you live in the Chicago area, you can take direct action. If negotiations with Bank of America fail to resolve the issue, there will be a picket of BoA’s Chicago headquarters at 231 S. LaSalle on Tuesday, December 9 at 12 noon.

Members of Local 1110 need your support. Make checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, and mail to: 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support to the striking workers can be sent to leahfried@gmail.com. For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300.

At the Jobs with Justice Web site, you can send a message of protest to Bank of America.

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9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

bridgett:

I’m passing this along to Dave von Ebers (http://journalplagueyear.blogspot.com/) a lawyer who lives in Oak Park. He is also pals with another lawyer in that area who is counsel for a couple of Gitmo detainees. If he doesn’t already know about this he will as soon as he visits his blog or checks his e-mail. Is Nez over at the Unapologetic Mexican in on this, already?

Fuck those fucking capitalist fuckers.

Comment by democommie

No, I don’t see it on Neuza’s site yet. It has been all over Chicago-area TV and news outlets, but until a few hours ago the only national attention came from labor and radical on-line outlets (Gangbox, Socialist Worker, Jobs for Justice, Indymedia). I’ve been following this mostly through Gangbox (http://gangbox.wordpress.com) and you’ll want to check there for updates, as Greg’s doing an excellent job of centralizing the most articulate articles being published about this.

Comment by bridgett

Bridgett,

Thanks for highlighting this travesty, and thanks to Demo for providing the link. I’ll try to post something about this issue this week, or at least link to this post. Excellent analysis. As you say, it’s all over the Chicago media, but it needs to be boosted into the national media.

Excellent blog, too!

Cheers,

Dave von Ebers

Comment by Dave von Ebers

i’ll be there, no fear. thanks for the link, democommie. great find. and great post, beautifulwicked.

Comment by nezua

oh ps (feel free to delete this comment) thanks for the blogroll link! elgrito is the archives now, fyi. the current blog is at same base site but new directory: http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org/elmachete but hey, any link to my work makes me happy so thanks again!

Comment by nezua

PS: now it seems the NY Times changed the entire takeover story at your NYTimes link. now it’s about half as long and leaves out tons of info!! Wow. Different headline and all. Memory Hole indeed. Glad I pasted most of it into an email earlier.

Comment by nezua

Fixed it up. Yes, the “story” changes as it goes up the national feed food chain and becomes less informative. If you want the real deal, you can talk to Leah Fried (who I think is still inside the factory) — her address is above.

Ain’t no accident that it’s this particular group of workers who are doing this, though, and that’s something that MSM won’t be interested in reporting because it doesn’t fit either their “labor” story (white men in the big trade unions, labor in crisis, blah blah) or their “immigrant” story. With cuts in the newsrooms, I don’t expect that this will get better.

We’re going to have to be the news.

Comment by bridgett

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Pingback by CHICAGO WORKERS DEMONSTRATE THE POWER OF THE SITDOWN STRIKE « GANGBOX: CONSTRUCTION WORKERS NEWS SERVICE




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