Friday, February 24, 2012

Workers Strike at Chicago Factory... and it pays off

After our discussion of the Haymarket Riot, I started wondering about the role factory workers play today in Chicago. I often tend to look at the factory and the struggles of it's workers as a concept solely associated with the Industrial Revolution and into the turn of the century, but as I encountered - especially since the 2008 economic crisis-  this is a very real issue in America today. The story of one group of workers in Chicago particularly inspired me.  

Three years ago, in December of 2008, factory workers at Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors factory were informed that Bank of America was cutting off its funding, and the factory would be shutting down. The workers were given only three-days notice and were not payed severance. Unwilling to take this lying down, 200-250 of these workers organized a sit-in at the factory, refusing to leave until they were given what was owed to them. Note: this was in winter... in Chicago.

What I find most interesting about this story is that even three- years after the fact, it is not clear whether or not the factory or Bank of America is to blame - neither was willing to claim responsibility. This reminds me of the discussion we had after reading Martyrs and Monuments, and the problems many workers faced once there was no longer a single owner to be held accountable for a company's problems; but rather a CEO, shareholders, etc. In this case, according to the factory, Bank of America abruptly cut-off all funding to Republic and despite the factory's request for severance for their employees, this request was denied. However, the Bank tells a different story. This is a statement pulled from NY Daily News: 

"Although we are a lender with no obligation to pay Republic's employees or make additional loans to Republic, we agreed to extend an additional loan to be used exclusively to pay its employees," David Rudis, the bank's Illinois president, said in a statement.

(full article:

In the end, the Bank and Republic Window and Doors reached an agreement and the workers were given 8- weeks salary and two months of healthcare. The strike lasted 6 days, and unlike the Haymarket Riot, it remained peaceful. 

I also discovered that a documentary was made about this strike- Worker's Republic. The link to the trailer is below, you should all watch it, its pretty inspiring. 

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