Republic Smoke and Mirrors

December 9, 2008

This is what you get if as a member of the world’s great and good, you opt to side with a bunch of workers who are illegally occupying their workplace.

As Ben Dangl reports for MRZine:

When the 250 workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago were told that the plant was shutting down, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  On Friday, December 5, the workers occupied their factory in an act that echoes the sit-down strikes of the 1930s in the US and the occupation of factories during the 2001 crisis in Argentina.

“They want the poor person to stay down.  We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s fair and what’s ours,” Silvia Mazon, 47, a formerly apolitical mother and worker at the factory for 13 years told the New York Times.  “They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”

The factory workers are protesting the fact that the Bank of America received $25 billion in the recent $700 billion government bailout, and then went ahead and cut off credit to Republic Windows and Doors, resulting in the subsequent closing of the factory.

“The bank has the money in this situation,” said Mark Meinster, a representative of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, the union to which the factory workers belong.  “And we are demanding that Bank of America release the money owed to workers who have earned it and are entitled to it.”  On Monday Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced that, in support of the workers, the state will temporarily stop doing business with Bank of America.

Which was by and large a courageous political decision to make, and highly unusual too for an elite American. The support of president-elect Barack Obama surely didn’t hurt though.

Be that as it may, Blagojevich has run into a real shitstorm of career-destroying proportions. As the NYT reports:

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday morning and charged with corruption, including an allegation that he conspired to effectively sell President-elect Barack Obama’s seat in the United States Senate to the highest bidder…Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, called his sole authority to name Mr. Obama’s successor “golden,” and he sought to parlay it into a job as an ambassador or secretary of Health and Human Services, or a high-paying position at a nonprofit or an organization connected to labor unions, prosecutors said.

At a news conference, Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, said that Mr. Blagojevich had gone on a “political corruption crime spree,” and that his actions had “taken us to a truly new low.”…“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Mr. Fitzgerald said..

…The authorities also say Mr. Blagojevich threatened to withhold state assistance from the Tribune Company, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, which filed for bankruptcy on Monday. According to the authorities, Mr. Blagojevich wanted members of the Tribune’s editorial board, who had criticized him, to be fired before he extended any state assistance.

Shurely just a coincidence, of course?

Good luck to the workers at Republic Windows and Doors, whether they have the backing of Rod Blagojevich, or not.


One Response to “Republic Smoke and Mirrors”

  1. Watson Says:

    This from today’s Tribune:

    Bank will extend credit to resolve factory sit-in
    December 9, 2008 at 2:24 PM
    Bank of America says it will extend credit to a Chicago window and door manufacturer whose workers have occupied the factory for five days.

    The bank says it’s willing to give the Republic Windows and Doors factory “a limited amount of additional loans” so it can resolves claims of employees who have staged a sit-in since Friday.

    The factory closed last Friday after Bank of America canceled its financing.

    Workers were given three days notice. But they refused to leave and vowed to stay there until receiving assurances they would receive severance and accrued vacation pay.

    The bank has been criticized for cutting off the plant’s credit after taking federal bailout money.

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