Some 260 union workers, out of a workforce of 300, took over the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago when it was faced with closure in December. The workers won accolades from President Obama as they occupied the factory for six days, operating in eight-hour shifts and controlling access to the building.
Leah Fried, organizer for the Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said that Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase declined to extend credit, prompting management to give the workers a three-day notice of closure, which she said was in violation of the 60-day notice required by the federal WARN act.
The purpose of the takeover was "refusing to allow any of the assets to leave the factory until the workers were paid what they were owed," said Fried. The workers were fighting for eight weeks of severance pay and two months of health insurance.
In the end, they won a $1.7 million settlement, Fried said. But they also got more than what they were fighting for: Serious Materials, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., bought the factory in February, saving it from closure.
"People have been slowly but surely called back to the factory," said Fried. "We have an agreement with [Serious Materials] where they have to hire back all the union workers before they can hire anyone from the outside."
Bank of America said that the factory "exhausted its original revolving line of credit with Bank of America and, because of the company's dire financial condition, we declined to extend additional credit beyond the amount of the original loan agreement." The bank also said it provided a $1.35 million loan to the company to pay its employees, "although we were not obligated to do so."
JPMorgan Chase did not return messages.
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