Republic workers continue sit-in after nine hours of talks

Officials from Bank of America, Republic Windows and Glass, and representatives of the company's displaced workers negotiated for almost 10 hours yesterday behind closed doors at the bank headquarters in the Loop.

When the parties emerged at 10:40 p.m., union leaders said there was no deal in place.

Another round of talks are scheduled for 1 p.m. today after a noon protest in front of the bank's Chicago headquarters at 2315 S. LaSalle St., says Leah Fried of Local 1110 of the United Electrical Workers union.

"Progress was made, and the bank and the union are bargaining in good faith," Fried says.

U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-4) attended the meeting. He, too, says progress is being made.

Fried says the displaced works would have final say over any deal cut during the negotiations.

Republic officials announced last week that its Goose Island plant would close, and blamed the shutdown on Bank of America's refusal to provide $5 million in financing. 

Workers say the company is refusing to provide them with 60 days pay and accrued vacation days as required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. About 200 of them have conducted a peaceful sit-in at the plant since Friday.

The situation has attracted national attention. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has stood with the workers at the plant on Goose Island, and President-elect Barack Obama sided with the workers Sunday during a press conference about his latest Cabinet appointee.

“When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” Obama said at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.

Union officials say the company’s $5 million line of credit was originally opened with LaSalle Bank, which was bought out by Bank of America last year. Bank of America received $25 billion in federal bailout cash, which Republic workers say obliges it to support the company.

Bank of America yesterday sent a letter to Republic Windows indicating that it will lend the company a limited amount of additional money to pay its workers in the wake of a plant shutdown. 

Union officials and workers would not comment on the bank statement.