Workers at Republic Windows and Doors are standing firm. They say they’re not leaving the plant until they have a deal, even if that takes all weekend.
“I have to stay,” says worker, Raul Flores, “Not just for me. For my family. For my children.”
The workers voted to continue their sit-in this evening, even after they were told it was unlikely there would be progress on pay issues until Monday.
Republic Windows and Doors announced Tuesday that it would close today because the company could not get continued financing from the Bank of America. Company officials also said they are unable to give workers the 60 days pay and unused vacation as required under the federal WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act.
Today, U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-4, pointed out that a state law complimenting the WARN ACT requires the company to give workers an additional 15 days pay, for a total of 75.
The WARN Act covers companies with 100 or more full-time employees.
Workers and the union protested the bank’s decision Wednesday and staged a sit-in at the plant this morning.
Union officials met with Gutierrez and Bank of America personnel this afternoon at the bank’s Loop offices. Carl Rosen, president of the Western Regional United Electrical Workers union, says Republic’s representative, Barry Dubin, didn’t show up and didn’t sign the confidentiality agreement the union needed to go forward with a deal for the workers.
“The confidentiality agreement limits what the bank can say to us. It does not necessarily limit their ability to help be a partner in solving the situation now,” says Rosen. “We don’t know the exact reasons the company was not present.”
Rosen said that he didn’t end today’s meeting until he was assured there would be another meeting, which is currently set for Monday morning.
After the meetng, Dubin appeared at Republic, pushing through a crowd of workers to get into the plant. Once inside, Dubin talked with Gutierrez and union officials, although Gutierrez said he could not comment on what was said in the meeting.
Dubin did not return several calls seeking comment.
Gutierrez says he's committed to getting a deal for the workers, either from Republic or Bank of America.
“While the company has a very clear relationship and bond which they need to fulfill (with the employees), I think that we need to get to the bottom of this,” says Gutierrez. “I wish they would sign so that we could sit down with Bank of America, who I believe has a moral responsibility, a political responsibility, a responsibility to the city of Chicago.”
Workers gathered around Gutierrez, cheering and shouting, “Si Se Puede!” or “Yes, We Can!”
One of the reasons workers say they are committed to staying at the company through the weekend is their fear that leaving would allow Republic to empty the building of its stock and machinery.
“We have decided to stay as long as we have to because, even of this morning, the company has told us that even our weekly pay is not guaranteed,” says Vicente Rangel, who’s worked at Republic for 15 years. “If we have no money left, and we go out, it’s a very bad situation for us.”
Overall, workers seemed optimistic that a deal can be reached, but are still worried for the future.
“We have no money to provide for our families. No money to pay our rent. No money to pay our bills,” says Rangel. “I was gonna take my kid to get his shots tomorrow, but I can’t do it, because I got no insurance.”
Bank of America spokesperson Julie Westermann says the bank cannot comment on the matter for confidentiality reasons.
Audio: Listen to Raul Flores talk about the dispute at Republic