Chanting, “Yes we did,” workers emerged from the shuttered Republic Windows & Doors factory late Wednesday to announce their approval of a $1.75 million agreement that ended a six-day sit-in that garnered national attention.
Several hundred laid-off workers — all union members — voted unanimously for a package that includes eight weeks’ salary, two months’ paid health care and all accrued vacation pay. That adds up to an average of nearly $6,000 for each worker.
When the factory abruptly closed last week, the workers were laid off and told there would be no severance or vacation pay. That led the workers to camp out inside the Goose Island factory, drawing the sympathies of workers around the country.
Wednesday night, labor unions credited U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) for helping in the negotiations.
Gutierrez said the workers simply got what they were entitled to: 60 days’ notice that the factory would close or they would be laid off.
“Federal law was established, and today we made sure that federal law was respected here in Chicago,” he said, flanked by several hundred cheering union members as well as David J. Rudis, who heads Bank of America, Illinois.
Bank of America pulled Republic ‘s line of credit, leading to the plant closure. The bank was vilified by politicians and union leaders, in part, because it took $15 billion in the federal bank bailout package — and is expected to receive another $10 billion.
In the end, Bank of America ponied up $1.35 million for Republic ‘s layoff package; JP Morgan Chase kicked in another $400,000.
Rudis said he was pleased with the settlement, but he didn’t discuss the criticism of the bank.
Union officials, calling this a “historic day” that celebrates the power of organizing against injustice, plan to retool and figure out a way to reopen the plant, possibly under a new owner.
For 33-year-old William Lane, a nine-year employee, he hopes that works. But he knows the severance — which could be doled out next week — will be gone soon. And he has bills to pay.
“I’m hoping that with all the publicity and stuff, that maybe someone will open their heart and tell us they’ll hire us,” Lane said.