Obama Says Workers at Chicago Factory Should Get Pay
By Julianna Goldman
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama said that union workers in Chicago who are protesting their factory’s sudden closure with a sit-in are justified in demanding their benefits and pay.
“I think they’re absolutely right,” Obama said today in response to a question at a Chicago news conference. “And understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”
Obama, who gave up his Illinois Senate seat last month after the Nov. 4 election, was asked at a press conference today to weigh in on the protest at Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors factory, which closed on Dec. 5 after Bank of America canceled its line of credit.
Workers “are occupying the plant around the clock this weekend, in an effort to force the company and its main creditor to meet their obligations to workers,” the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union says on its Web site.
Because Bank of America received funds from the government’s $700 billion rescue package, the protest has attracted attention from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois as an example of the Troubled Asset Relief Program helping Wall Street and not Main Street.
“It’s also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren’t just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they’re designed also to get money out the door and to help people on Main Street,” Obama said.
Nobody answered the phone today at Republic Windows. Bank of America declined to comment on Obama’s remarks, spokeswoman Julie Westermann said. “We are honoring all of our contractual obligations to the company,” she said. “We have taken reasonable steps to talk to the company and its management and we expect that the company will soon decide how to proceed.”
While Westermann wouldn’t discuss details of the bank’s relationship with Republic, she called it regrettable that the company has faced “extreme financial hardship.”
The labor union’s goal “is to at least get the compensation that workers are owed,” its Web site says. The workers also want the company to resume operations and, if it closes, are seeking 60 days notice and a “fair severance package,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the union.
The union fact sheet also says the average wage at the factory, which manufactures vinyl windows, is $14 an hour. Workers also “receive good health coverage and retirement benefits,” the union statement said.
“I think that these workers, if they have earned these benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments,” Obama said at the news conference.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Chicago at email@example.com
Last Updated: December 7, 2008 21:00 EST
Monday, December 08, 2008
Even if the office workers are lambs to the slaughter, here are some blue-collars who aren't. It's a good moment too for Obama, and Jesse Jackson, and the power of outrage at basic hypocrisy on the part of banks loading up on govt money.