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Laid-off factory workers take over Chicago plant

By Rupa Shenoy
Associated Press / December 7, 2008
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CHICAGO - Workers who got three days' notice that their factory was shutting its doors have occupied the building and say they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay.

About 250 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.

Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.

During the two-day peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

"We're doing something we haven't done since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," she said, referring to a tactic most famously used in 1936-37 by General Motors factory workers in Flint, Mich., to help unionize the US auto industry.

Fried said the company can't pay its 300 employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month.

Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement yesterday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

Representatives of Republic Windows did not immediately respond yesterday to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

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