Monday, December 08, 2008

Chicago Factory Sit-In: The Dawn of a New Era For Unions in America?


This is an example of why a bailout, any bailout, is fundamentally a no-win situation for the taxpayer.

You may have heard news that workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago occupied the building and began a sit-in after the factory shut down Friday on three days' notice. Last time I checked, they're still there.

The workers say the factory was closed in violation of a law that requires a 60-day notice for a shutdown. They say they won't leave without assurances that they'll get severance and vacation pay.

What you may not have heard is the reason for the abrupt shutdown. The company's creditor, Bank of America, canceled Republic's line of credit. Republic's sales have tumbled in the sour economy, and with no line of credit, CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors," The Associated Press reported.

This is the same Bank of America that got $25 billion of the federal government's $700 billion financial bailout. That's over 3.5% of the total package. And they can't afford to extend a line of credit so that 250 mostly Hispanic wage earners in Chicago can keep their jobs?


The Associated Press also reported that Bank of America, in a statement Saturday, said that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

Exactly for whom, and to whom, is Bank of America, sucking at the federal tit to the tune of $25 billion, responsible and accountable?

It's in the public interest that people can get and hold jobs. These people can't pay taxes when they're in the unemployment line. Since this largess is coming from the taxpayers, we've got a perverse situation of collectivist capitalism for the bankers, and the icy sidewalk for the faceless mass of suckers who put up money for the bailout.


Along with many other people, I held my nose and voiced support for the bailout as a necessary evil. But this case illustrates why taxpayer-funded bailouts end up being no-win situations. It's a sort of blackmail -- the national economy would fall into a downward spiral of Depression proportions if financial institutions the size of Bank of America were allowed to go under. They seem to know this, and their behavior is commensurately unaccountable.

Chicago will easily survive a loss of 250 jobs at Republic. But multiply that scenario across the country, with many hundreds of struggling companies and overextended creditors, and you get a mental picture of what the U.S. economy is facing.

This is an example of why bailouts need to have many strings attached to them, and very sturdy ones. In exchange for that $25 billion, the federal government ought to have pretty much leverage over what Bank of America uses it for. Republic operates at the level of a few million dollars per month, not in the billions like BOA. This is a microcosm of the kind of abuse that the many have endured, at the hands of the few, for decades.


A bright spot is that this incident may become a rallying point for the revival of a union movement in America. Here's more from the AP report:

"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."

Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."

Leah Fried, an organizer with United Electrical Workers, obliquely compared the sit-in to the landmark 1936-37 General Motors sit-down strike in Flint, Mich., which helped unionize the auto industry. (Yeah, I know, there's the automakers bailout. That's another post.)

"We're doing something we haven't done since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," AP quoted Fried as saying. She pointed out that the occupying workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building during the sit-in.

Realistically, the financial bailout is a bitter concoction we're going to have to gulp down. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. And, for a dramatic change from '80s and '90s stupor, a lot of Americans seem to be waking up from virtual date-rape drugs and realizing who's been carrying out the assault on working people for many years.

I hope the 53-46% mandate for Barack Obama was only the beginning. Republic should trigger a reborn union movement in this country. Against the kinds of monolithic entities we now face, like Bank of America, lots of people getting together again is the only chance we have.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.


Anonymous said...

An educated worker is a dangerous worker.

Now we know why the Powers That Be have worked to dumb down our nation's media and education systems increasingly over the past 3 decades.

Anonymous said...

No matter how you Liberals try to spin this, it's clear that Obama is now tainted by the Blagojivich scandal.
Questions remain: what did Obama know about this and when did he know it?
It's time that we Conservatives take the gloves off and DEMAND that the liberal media thoroughly and completely examine this important bombshell of a story.

Marc McDonald said...

In response to the previous post: There IS no "liberal media," moron. The MSM is owned by giant, profit-hungry corporations. If you think that these corporations are more interested in spreading liberal propaganda than maximizing profits, you're a fool.

Also, if there really was a "liberal media," then the shareholders of these giant corporations would have to be in on the conspiracy, as well.

Yeah, I'm sure these shareholders are more interested in liberal propaganda than they are in earning the maximum return on their money. Oh, and they've all been sworn to secrecy, too---otherwise, the "liberal media bias" plot would fail.

Oh, and right-wingers are, of course, forbidden from buying stock in these corporations, so they can't air their "liberal media bias" charges at the annual shareholder's meetings. Why, I know a Rush Limbaugh fan who just the other day was prevented from buying some shares in Time Warner, because he was planning to expose the Great Liberal Media Conspiracy.

Yeah, right.

You retards need to take off your tin foil hats (after you remove your head from Bush's ass).

AltandMain said...

This could hopefully set a precedent for a better future for our unions.

It has always stunned me that people feel that unions are somehow the problem. Take for example the big three car makers - even if their workers worked for free, they would not be cutting much (less than 20%) of their expenses.

I opposed the bailout. Paulson at the time effectively asked for $700 billion with no accountability and may have loaned $4 trillion more clandestinely (ex: away from the mainstream media). Yes we do need a large cash infusion (I'm guessing over $10 trillion may be realistic), but we need that money to be accountable.

As for our media, I feel that there should be some standards on ethics and accuracy. They have an obligation to provide the most accurate news to the public possible - that is what they get their advertising revenues for. They have broken this social contract so much that the people should no longer, in my opinion, trust what they see on the MSM.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by.
>>As for our media, I feel that
>>there should be some standards
>>on ethics and accuracy.

Definitely. And we sure as heck ought to implement these standards at the very least on the nation's airwaves, which are OWNED BY THE PUBLIC.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon, re: your comment:

>>"The media is doing an awesome
>>job of getting the truth out
>>about everything."

In reality, the media is doing an awesome job of getting the pro-corporate propaganda out (that the multi-national corporations have ordered their media properties to dessiminate).

The Cunning Runt said...

We seem to have a difference of perspective here.

But I see it as you do: the myth of the "Liberal Media" is pretty nonsensical, considering who currently owns it.

Anonymous seems, alas, to have been drinking from the Ass of Stupidity, from which all manner of dysenteric ideas flow. Get Thee to a Cave, my friend. Your conservative icons have already removed their gloves, revealing their cloven hooves.