On Friday, December 5, 2008, a new chapter in labor history was written by about 260 Chicago workers at Republic Windows and Doors.
Three days earlier, they learned the plant was closing. Bank of America, although flush with U.S. government bailout cash, had refused to extend Republic’s line of credit and had also refused to allow Republic to pay out what they were owed.
United — as a union of co-workers — they stood together and said “No!”
For the next five days they occupied their plant — something rarely seen in the U.S. since the 1930’s The worldwide reaction was stunning.
A World of Support
People organized demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country, from New York to San Francisco, from icy Buffalo to sunny Florida. Solidarity messages poured in from around the world. Their common theme was, “We’re behind you — and proud of you! Keep up the fight!”
The UE Local 1110 members had no way of knowing how deeply their courageous action would resonate. But it soon became clear that their action articulated the anger and frustration of millions of ordinary people in this worsening economic crisis.
A World of Hope
They inspired people fed up by the excesses of banks, corporations and the powerful who have led us into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s — and then got the government to bail them out with our money.
They gave hope to people who face the prospect of losing jobs, homes, healthcare, retirement, and for many, the hope for their kids to get a good college education.
A Movement to ‘Resist Economic Violence’
Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed it well when he said that, like Rosa Parks 50 years ago, the Republic workers stood up for justice by sitting down. “In many ways,” said Jackson, their action “is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”
Now, it’s up to all of us to make sure this moment is a real turning point, when we begin to stand together as working people to demand an economy and government policies that put our needs first.