Jackson: Republic Windows sit-in is the dawn of a "new movement"

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors crowded into the small company lobby to hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak in support of their sit-in, which began three days ago.

"These workers are to this struggle perhaps what Rosa Parks was to social justice 50 years ago," Jackson says. "This, in many ways, is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence."

Jackson says he came to the factory to show his solidarity for the workers, who were laid off Friday as their company closed its doors. Company officials say they had to close because the Bank of America denied the company's request for $5 million credit.

Jackson accused the banks of hoarding the money given to them by the federal government as part of the federal bailout and not using to help American workers, like Republic's.

Bank of America received $25 billion in federal bailout cash, which Republic workers say obligates it to support the company.

"We're going to have a self induced depression because we are trying to change our economy from the top down," says Jackson. "It must be changed from the bottom up."

Jackson says if the change doesn't happen soon, the consequences will be dire.

"Cities will go bankrupt. Libraries will close. Police, teachers and firemen will lose their jobs," says Jackson.

When asked by a reporter if police are likely to come in and remove the workers from the plant, Jackson said he didn't think so.

"The police that would come in - their jobs are in jeopardy, too," he says. "If you lose the industrial base, police lose their jobs, too."

Jackson also announced that he had brought a truck full of food with him for the workers, including 300 turkeys to be passed out.

Armado Robles, a Republic employee and president of the local union, thanked Jackson for his presence.

"We appreciate your courage and your support to us," Robles says. His comments were immediately followed by an outbreak of chanting, "Si Se Puede" or "Yes, We Can."

Employees at Republic say they were overjoyed to have so much support, not only from Reverend Jackson, but from so many members of the community, including religious leaders and members of other city unions. The walls of the lobby were covered in paper with messages of solidarity written from community members.

Republic employee Raul Flores says he was impressed by the Reverend's comments.

"We're really proud that he hears our voices. All the community is hearing our voices," says Flores. "That made us proud and give us more power to keep on going on this. We're not going to stop until we get what we deserve."

After the press conference, employees made a line from the truck through the factory to pass the turkeys and bags of food that Jackson brought them. The workers have divided the sit-in into shifts, each taking eight hours at a time, but often staying for longer. Flores left at 1 a.m. Sunday, but returned at 5 a.m., getting just a few hours of sleep.

Employees, including Ricardo Caceres, say they are tired but will not give up.

Caceres says his family motivates him.

"Everytime I talk to my wife...She tells me what she's doing right then," says Caceres, who's worked at Republic for 15 years. "I hear her voice and I feel ready to stay here again."

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