Saturday, December 20, 2008

Broad Support for Republic Windows Occupation by Stephanie Weiner

This article by Stephanie Weiner was published in the Dec. 2008 - Jan. 2009 issue of Fight Back! The newspaper of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The photo of the women int he factory was taken by Stephanie Weiner, however the photo of Armando Robles speaking at the People's Thanksgiving event was taken by myself.

The weblink to the article on Fight Back!'s website is here.

Fight Back! also posted the videos I took of Robles speaking on their website. Click Here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Republic Windows Workers Rally on Lasalle St.

On December 10, 2008 a rally was held on Lasalle St., in the financial district of Chicago. The rally was to support the employees of Republic Windows who had occupied their factory to protest it's closing, and to demand their rightful back wages and benefits. There were close to a thousand supporters there, including the Republic windows workers (who were members of United Electrical Workers or UE, a union), members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Hotel and Restraunt Employees Local 1 (HERE), Teamster local 743, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and others.

The rally was held outside of the Bank of America building on Lasalle St., since it was this bank that refused a line of credit to the window factory, forcing it to close without paying its workers. Bank of America was one of the banks that received money from the bailout Congress passed. People were chanting, "They got bailed out, we got sold out!"

Henry Tamarin President of HERE Local 1 and members of local 1 representing.

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees members.

A representative of Rainbo/Push speaking to the crowd.

This speaker discussed the housing crisies and how it was impacting Chicago residents.

This woman was from the Interfaith Committee on Workers Issues.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

One of the Republic Windows workers speaks out.


There were so many people we had to march around the block.

Food Not Bombs provided food for the protestors.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Republic Window and Door Occupation

This certainly has been a very exciting year for the Left and Chicago. I received word last night (Saturday December 6, 2008) that workers at the Republic Window and Door glass factory on Goose Island in Chicago had occupied their factory, becoming the first factory workers to conduct a sit-down strike since the 1930's.

The factory announced that it would be closing, without giving the employees their back pay, vacation time, insurance or proper notification. The workers, after having been through a fight to be members of the United Electrical workers union several years prior, were ready to fight for their rights. They voted to occupy the plant, and demanded their back pay and rights.

The workers are staying at the factory in shifts, some spending the night. There was a rally Saturday and there will be another one with Jesse Jackson on Sunday. The workers and the owners will have negotiations with Congressman Luis Gutierrez on Monday. If negotiations fail there will be a rally on Tuesday outside the Bank of America offices on Lasalle st.

I met one of the leaders of the occupation, Armando Robles, at the People's Thanksgiving dinner and went that night to the factory. I spoke with the workers there and found out more info. The plant is predominantly Latino, the massive immigrants rights marches of the last few years must have played a role in their getting organized and militant. The plant is the only one of the company's, and while it used to employ around 500 people, today it's down to maybe 200-300 employees.

It's unclear how Obama feels about it. Congressman Gutierrez has been speaking in support of the workers, but it's unclear how far he'll back them. Thus far the police, and by default Daley, have been calm. If negotiations work on Monday, it could be a big victory, signaling that workers can be more militant to gain their rights and that those actions have pay off. There are risks if the occupation isn't concluded on Monday and goes beyond it, but possibly bigger pay offs. If the occupation lasts through till Obama appoint new people to the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB could take a stand to legalize workplace occupations.

I asked Armando Robles at the People's Thanksgiving dinner if the company was unable or unwilling to give the workers their back pay and right if the workers at the factory were interested in expropriating the factory or starting up production. Robles replied in the affirmative.

With the economy failing, more actions like this can be expected. With President Obama in power, we might be able to get some substantial gains for the working class. Regardless, this sit-down strike has already had an impact on American labor, inspiring many and raising the militancy of the movement.

Armando Robles Speaks on the Occupation Part 1

Armando Robles Speaks on the Occupation Part 2

Armando Robles Speaks Part 3

17th Annual People's Thanksgiving

I attended the Freedom Road Socialist Organization's annual People's Thanksgiving fund-raiser for Fight Back! Newspaper. Every year they give out awards to freedom fighters. Among this years honorees, were The Coalition to March on the RNC which included Comité Anti-Militarización; Neighbors for Peace - Evanston; Palestine Solidarity Group; Southside Together Organized for Power; and Teamsters Local 743. Also honored was Tom Wilson with Access Living and ADAPT, disabled persons rights groups. Sonja Santiago, a former guard at Guatanamo and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War also spoke. One of the very exciting parts of the dinner was when Armando Robles of the Republic Window and Door Factory Workers Occupation spoke. The crowd received Robles very enthusiastically. They passed the hat and 80% of the $1,500 raised went to the occupation.

The crowd.

Sector Latino from the Chicago Fire Soccer games.

Tom Wilson from ADAPT

Sonja Santiago from IVAW.

Richard Berg of Teamsters 743.

Armando Robles of the Republic glass factory occupation

Thats What She Said.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Selling Christmas Trees for Circle Pines Center

I'm selling Christmas Trees in Hyde Park for the Circle Pines Center. Circle Pines Center is a cool campground, basically run by a bunch of hippies, and lefties.

I've been up there before for one of their “Work-Bee Weekends” where you chip in with some work around the place and you get free food, shelter and recreation. I went up during the fall of 2005, where I worked with a bunch of people chopping down trees with chainsaws to make some firewood. It was a lot of fun.

The Christmas Trees are sold to help raise money for scholarships for kids who want to go to the summer camp at Circle Pines. Every year they raise around $15,000. They have been selling trees in Hyde Park for the last 40 years or so.

They used to be closely affiliated with the Hyde Park Cooperative Grocery Store. Unfortunately the Co-op has closed and a Treasure Island grocery store open in the same space. Treasure Island was not as friendly towards Circle Pines as the Co-op was. Treasure Island attempted to prohibit the Christmas tree sales, but gave in after Circle Pines pressured them. Treasure Island, the non-union grocery store, decided to sell their own cheap Christmas trees, just a few steps from the Circle Pines trees.

Apparently Obama has bought his trees from Circle Pines in the past. We keep expecting a dozen black SUVs to roll up and secret service to jump out and secure our parking lot before Obama comes and buys his Christmas tree. If he does, we are supposed to invite him to send his daughters to summer camp at Circle Pines.

I have to thank my friend Rob who is on the Board of Directors at Circle Pines and who hooked me up with the job selling the trees.

I'll be selling trees on the weekend for the rest of the month, so feel free to come and visit.

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