Republic workers file charges against employer

CHICAGO – Workers who led a six-day sit-in at the northside Republic Windows and Doors factory here last month filed charges against their former employer saying Republic violated their collective bargaining rights under the national Labor Relations act. They are members of Local 1110 with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE).

“UE wants Rich Gillman, former president of Republic Windows and Doors, to be held accountable for the illegal acts we believe he committed related to the closure of Republic,” said UE field organizer Leah Fried, in a press conference held in front of National Labor Relations Board Chicago offices Jan. 6. UE members said their rights were violated when Republic failed to give the workers and their union proper notice of the plan to shut down its operations. Republic only gave the workers three-day notice before closing. Republic management also refused to negotiate with the workers about the decision, said UE.

The union also charged that Republic management did not act in good faith with it’s actions and said the owner moved operations, machinery and clients to a factory in Iowa where workers are being paid less than those in Chicago.

“Gilman refused to inform workers and bargain with the union regarding his plans to move production to his new factory Echo Windows, where he employs workers through a temporary agency at eight dollars an hour,” said Fried.

Equipment was improperly taken from the Chicago factory in order to set up a new company that makes the same products in Red Oak, IA, says UE.

Laurie Burgess, an attorney representing the workers said, “We are asking the Labor Board to demand the return of the machinery, the clients, and the jobs back to Chicago.” Burgess added, “This will enable the union to then negotiate with the employer regarding their bargaining unit members’ rights.”

Burgess and UE feel that an injunction to return the equipment back to the Chicago factory will increase the potential for the plant to be bought and re-opened under new management and allow the workers to retain their jobs.

“Republic failed to sit down at the table on how to keep these jobs here in Chicago and now the workers are standing up for their rights,” said Burgess.

Ron Bender is African American and worked at Republic for 14 years as a machine operator. He’s also the Local 1110 steward with UE.

Bender said being laid off right before the holidays was rough.

“It’s been a struggle especially for my co-workers because many of them have small children,” he told the World. “I’m looking for another job,” he added.

Bender said the whole experience was an eye-opener including the unity and mass support from people across the country. “Workers should be taken care of first,” he said.

Republic said they closed shop because it’s main creditor, Bank of America, had cut off financing although the bank had recently received a $25 billion bailout package from the federal government. Apparently Bank of America decided it wouldn’t use some of that money to keep manufacturing enterprises going at Republic leaving the workers out in the cold. Republic shut down and moved.

The workers and their UE local took charge of the situation and led a very successful and peaceful occupation of their worksite that drew national and international attention.

After the workers sat-in for six days that led to hours of intense negotiations, Republic’s management, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase agreed on a $1.75 million settlement with the workers and their union. Each worker was promised to receive eight weeks’ salary, all accrued vacation pay and two months’ paid health care.

UE has created a foundation called the Window of Opportunity to collect donations in the attempt to keep the factory open and allow the workers to get their jobs back. For more information go to www.ueunion.org.