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Money and Main Street
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Hartmarx, Des Plaines and Rock Island, Ill.
Hartmarx, Des Plaines and Rock Island, Ill.

On election night and Inauguration Day, President Obama wore high-end suits and a tuxedo made by Hart Schaffner & Marx, a 3,800-employee company based in his hometown of Chicago.

But the product placement wasn't enough to keep two of its factories, located in Des Plaines and Rock Island, in business. The company, also known as Hartmarx, filed for bankruptcy protection in January, noting a "substantial decline" in clothing purchases, and the factories closed down, putting more than 1,000 people out of work.

Workers United, the company's union, blamed Wells Fargo, the chief lender, for cutting off payment to the factory's suppliers, and said the bank should extend some of its $25 billion in TARP funding to help prop up Hartmarx.

"I was very angry because I voted for the TARP money," said Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., a supporter of the workers and a former fabric cutter at a Hartmarx-owned factory.

Hare said the purpose of the TARP was, in part, "to extend credit lines for businesses in trouble." In May, Hartmarx employees voted unanimously to take over factories if Wells Fargo tried to shut them down.

But the workers might not have to resort to that. Hare said Wells Fargo eventually did extend credit to the factories' suppliers. That allowed the workers to go back to work, with the understanding that the bill would get picked up by British equity firm Emerisque, which is in negotiations to purchase the assets.

"I'm really proud of the workers," said Hare. "They hung in there."

Wells Fargo declined to comment for this story.

NEXT: Quad City Die Casting factory, Moline, Ill.
Last updated July 24 2009: 11:38 AM ET
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