UE News Update, Dec. 9, 2008
The Plant Occupation in Chicago
As most Americans who follow the news know by now, the members of UE Local 1110 have peacefully occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago since the evening of Friday, December 5. That was the day when their plant suddenly closed and their jobs were taken from them, with only three days notice, and without paying workers the vacation they had earned and the 60 days pay that the company owes them for not giving the 60 days plant closing notice required by the WARN Act. The workers now conducting a round-the-clock sit-in at the factory have vowed to stay there until they achieve justice from Republic and from its chief creditor, Bank of America.
Local 1110 members took this action with the unqualified support and encouragement of the UE National Union. We stand fully behind these brave union members in this fight. By their audacious initiative, they have issued a profound statement on behalf of all UE members and working people everywhere. That message is that our country has been following an economic course that is terribly wrong, and economic recovery requires a bailout for workers, not CEOs. Or as the Reverend Jesse Jackson put it, as he delivered food donations to the workers at Republic two days into their sit-in, “We’re going to have a self-induced depression because we are trying to change our economy from the top down. It must be changed from the bottom up.”
We call on working people and supporters of social justice everywhere to stand with us and defend this occupation, support the Republic workers’ continuing struggle for justice, and follow their lead in building a broad movement for economic justice and equality.
On behalf of all the members of UE, we want to express thanks for the broad support the Republic workers have received in their struggle, from people across the country and around the world. We particularly appreciate the supportive public statement from President-elect Obama; the strong advocacy on behalf of the workers by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the support of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, and the help and inspiration provided by Rev. Jackson. The assistance of the Chicago labor movement and national Jobs with Justice has been invaluable.
Workers at Republic Windows and Doors came into UE four years ago, with a resounding 73 percent vote in an NLRB election, because they wanted a union that was democratic and that would enable workers themselves to take the initiative in fighting for fairness on the job. From the start these workers were in synch with UE’s philosophy that workers gain improved economic and working conditions through unified, rank-and-file action. They applied that approach successfully in negotiating contracts and in dealing with grievances in their plant. That UE formula of democracy plus worker mobilization is what made the current historic struggle possible. It’s important to note that the members of Local 1110 chose this course of action through discussion and a democratic vote.
The action of the Republic workers fits well within UE’s unique tradition of empowering and assisting working people to conduct their own campaigns for justice and economic security. The Preamble of the UE Constitution, unchanged since its adoption in 1936, articulates the principles that built our union and which make possible the kind of creative, bold action that has captured the attention of the nation and the world at Republic. “We…form an organization which unites all workers… and pursue(s) at all times a policy of aggressive struggle to improve our conditions.”
Director of Organization