Chicago Factory Workers Protest To Keep Jobs

Workers at a Chicago factory are staging a sit-in to protest a swift shut down that has left them without severance and vacation pay. Leaders say they've been trying to get Republic Windows' creditor, the Bank of America, to reinstate the company's line of credit and save hundreds of jobs.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From NPR News, it's Day to Day. For the fourth day in a row, workers are camped out in a Chicago factory in protest. Employees of Republic Windows and Doors are demanding severance and vacation pay after being abruptly laid off. We're joined now by NPR's Cheryl Corley, who is at the factory. Hi, Cheryl. Can you describe the scene for us there?

CHERYL CORLEY: There are a lot of workers outside. For most of the morning, they've been inside the factory, but they've all come out. They're holding up signs asking Bank of America to respect the federal law, and essentially, their argument is that they should be given severance pay and things like that.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has come to the factory to talk with workers and to provide what he says is not only moral support but to help put pressure on the forces here so that people can keep their jobs.

The governor has said that what he wants to do is have the state defend any business who owes the Bank of America. Of course, the Bank of America withdrew a credit line to Republic Windows because of the declining sales here. So we have a crowd of people who are here, and the governor and lots of leaders are coming to this factory just to lend their support to the workers.

COHEN: And these workers, they've been camping out there, some of them overnight. It's winter in Chicago. What's that been like for them?

CORLEY: Well, it is winter in Chicago, but they're camping out inside. We're talking about 250 workers, and it's a very organized protest. They are camping out in shifts. So you have about 60 people or so who come in and stay here for about 8 hours, and then another set of workers will come in. So it's very organized. These workers say they want to remain here, and they will do so peacefully, but they'll stay here until they get some sort of resolution.

COHEN: And what kind of resolution are they looking for? How much, you know, severance pay, how much vacation pay?

CORLEY: Well, they are looking for at least 60 days of severance pay. They were told about three days before they were actually laid-off. So they're seeking vacation. They're seeking severance pay. They're seeking their final paycheck. That's what they're actually seeking. They want to keep their jobs, however, but they say if, you know, push comes to shove, they're looking for 60 days of severance pay and that outstanding vacation pay and hopefully last paychecks.

COHEN: Cheryl, I understand there'll be a meeting there later on this afternoon. Who is expected to be there?

CORLEY: Well, officials of the now-closed Republic Windows and Doors are going to be there, along with union representatives, as well as representatives of Bank of America, the bank which canceled funding for this place, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has been spearheading a lot of the negotiations. So that's what's going to be happening this afternoon.

COHEN: NPR's Cheryl Corley speaking to us from the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago. Thank you, Cheryl.

CORLEY: You're quite welcome.

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