Workers Out of the Job Wanting their Share of Bank of America’s $25B Bailout

Posted: 6 December 2008 by Little Alex in National News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors protests outside the headquarters of Bank of America at 2315 S. Lasalle St. yesterday. Workers claim the bank accepted federal bailout money will not loan money that could save the business from closing Friday. / Photo by Mark Meinster (courtesy)

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors protests outside the headquarters of Bank of America at 2315 S. Lasalle St. yesterday. Workers claim the bank accepted federal bailout money will not loan money that could save the business from closing Friday. / Photo by Mark Meinster (courtesy)

Republic Windows and Doors, a Chicago-based manufacturer of windows and doors, primarily to new constructions, shut its doors on Friday due to lack of financing.

The company once financed by LaSalle Bank with a line of credit for $5M was not able to receive their credit under Bank of America, who bought LaSalle Bank in October of last year.

Megan Cottrell of The Daily News (aka “Chi-Town Daily News”) reported on Thursday of Republic’s workers protesting in front of Bank of America’s headquarters in Chicago:

“They got bailed out! We got sold out!”

That was the cry of workers yesterday protesting the closing of Republic Windows and Doors at the Bank of America headquarters in downtown Chicago.

About 100 employees, carrying signs and marching in the cold rain and snow, demanding the bank use federal bailout funds to help their company and its workers.

“The bank has received millions and millions of dollars from the federal government to assist these companies so they can keep operating,” says worker Vincente Rangel, 34. “It’s not helping us. It’s just killing us. The bank is keeping the money, but it’s not helping us to survive.”

Republic, a 43-year-old family owned window manufacturer on Goose Island, announced this week it would close Friday, putting about 300 employees out of work.

Company officials say the business is shutting down because Bank of America refuses to provide continued financing.

The company is the victim of the drastic downturn in the housing construction market, according to a letter signed by Republic CEO Rich Gillman and distributed to workers. The company formerly pulled in $4 million per month in revenue, and now earns $2.9 million, Gillman wrote.

Some Republic jobs pay $14 an hour and include health and retirement benefits, workers say.

In addition to closing, the company announced it did not have the money to pay the 60 days wages required by the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Republic employee Melvin Mackin, 54, a Bronzeville resident, husband and father of six, says he was shocked by the news that Republic was closing.

“The company is pointing their fingers at the bank, the bank is pointing fingers at the company, and it’s us that suffering,” says Mackin, who has been with the company for seven years. “It’s right here at Christmas, and it’s just a mess.”

Under the WARN Act, companies are required to either give 60 days notice of its closing or pay workers 60 days wages from the announcement of the closing. Mark Meinster, international representative with the United Electrical Workers, says the union is worried Republic will liquidate its assets, leaving nothing for the workers.

“We want them to make an agreement right now that they need to pay the workers what they’re owed under the law,” Meinster says.

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.

Bank of America Midwest spokesperson Rob Darmanin says the bank cannot comment on client relationships for confidentiality reasons….

“That could be 50,000 jobs here in the city if the banks allow these manufacturers to go down,” Meinster says.

Glenn Johnson, a member of the board of directors of of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, agrees.

“I’m hearing horror stories about banks coming in and saying, ‘It’s been a great relationship and we’ll miss you, but we just don’t like your numbers, and we’re just not going to renew your line of credit,”‘ says Johnson, who also served as chairman of the organization.

Workers at Republic are deeply worried about the months ahead.

“These people – What are they going to do now?” says Rangel. “Without pay, without insurance. They’ve got family. They’ve got kids. Myself, I’ve got a son. What am I going to do?”

This refusal of credit comes after Bank of America recieved $25B of the recent $700B bailout plan from the taxpayers of America. Prior to the bailout, Bank of America:

  • Purchased $2B in preferred shares of Countrywide Financial in Aug. ’07.
  • Acquired ABN AMRO North America and LaSalle Bank for $21B in Oct. ’07.
  • Announced they would buy Countrywide Financial for $4.1B in Jan. ’08 for $4.1B.
  • Completed its purchase of Countrywide in Jul. ’08 making Bank of America the controller of 20-25% of the nation’s home loan market.
  • Announced they would buy Merrill Lynch for $50B in Sept. ’08 weeks before receiving a $25B bailout from the federal gov’t.
  • Refuses to finance a corporation credited $5M that was financed by LaSalle Bank

The article also states that Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Rep. Luis Guitierrez (D-IL) are “heavily involved with the issue.”

(Uhh… No shit. These two treasonous men voted for the $700B sellout, not once, but both times!)

The $700B bailout was justified as a bill that wasn’t only covering the malinvestment of the banksters, but through fearmongering — that credit would dry up and people would be out of work without the bailout.

News flash for Mr. Davis and Mr. Guitierrez (and Mr. President-elect): You defied public opinion when deciding how to spend our money and you suckers got scammed!

This is unfair, Little Alex. Everyone in Washington and around the presidential election saw the facts and made educated evaluations.

Take the shit out of your sheep eyes for a minute and you’ll see that there are some who don’t insult you by being party whores, making empty promises completely devoid of pragmatism, and/or regurgitating talking points who actually make appeals based on reason:

The Republic workers staged a sit-down on Friday, the day their company closed, that remains strong:

Laid off workers were camped out at their abruptly shuttered factory on Saturday, demanding that the bank which cut off credit to the Chicago window maker free up some financing so they could be paid their final wages and benefits.

The sit-in began on Friday morning, just hours after the Labor Department reported that a stunning retrenchment cut 533,000 jobs from US payrolls in November, sending the nation’s unemployment rate to a 15-year high.

The grim economic outlook was on the minds of the 300 workers whose were given just three days notice that Republic Windows & Doors was being forced to close.

Federal law mandates that workers get paid for unused vacation time and are either given 60 days notice of a mass layoff or paid for that time.

But company officials said they could not make those payments because the bank was “basically controlling all expenditures at this point… and was not allowing it,” said United Electrical union representative Leah Fried.

“There’s a whole other level of shamefulness given the bailout (of financial institutions) and that Bank of America didn’t extend credit as they were supposed to,” Fried told AFP.

“This is a company that’s been around for 48 years. They’ve been through quite a few ups and downs in the housing market and they probably could have gotten through this, but Bank of America decided to cut off the financing despite the bailout they received (from the government) and now these people are out on the street.”

After spending much of Friday chatting over pizza and coffee, the plant’s 250 union members organized themselves into three shifts to keep the building occupied until a settlement is reached.

“We’re doing this for the other working people in the country,” said machine operator Ron Bender, who had worked for the company for 14 years.

“What’s happened to us can happen to anyone – they could just close up and put you out and give you no severance pay.”

Company officials told the union they would not try to eject them from the plant and said they would attend a meeting on Monday afternoon with the union, the bank and US Representative Luis Gutierrez to try to hammer out a deal.

Keep on fighting, Republic workers. Though, your congresspeople and president-elect don’t give a damn that this country’s a corporate thugocracy (fascism), some people out there do.

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