For too many years now the American people have been pushed around by the nation’s corporations, the banks, the insurance companies and their right-wing backers in government.
If the events of this past week, coming just one month after a historic election, are any indication, we are seeing the beginnings of a movement that just might change all of that forever.
Bosses at a Chicago factory that makes windows and doors told their workers, just weeks before Christmas, that it was closing down because Bank of America cut off the factory’s line of credit. There was no money available, the workers were told, to pay them their last week’s salary, their accrued vacation time and sick time, or the 60 days pay to which workers are entitled when a business shuts down on such short notice. It could have been just one more tragic story in the disastrous chain of events recently in an economic free-fall produced by corporate greed.
Only this time, it was different. Determined not to be 300 more victims of the economic violence perpetrated by the banks, the workers began a sit-in at their factory, refusing to leave until they got everything they were owed. Support poured in from all over the country. Workers, both union and non-union, community groups, religious organizations, small businesses, immigrant rights groups, elected officials, the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and the president-elect were among the many who came forward to back them.
Bank of America took $31 billion in taxpayer dollars. The people of the U.S. were told Wall Street had to be bailed out so credit would continue to flow and so job losses could be avoided. The giant banks took that money and bought other profitable businesses with some of it and paid their executives lavish salaries with other parts of it. But the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago didn’t get the credit line it needed and, of course, the people who toiled for it, many for 30 years, got nothing.
Bank of America’s role as the main culprit here in no way diminishes the culpability of the company. Republic was all too willing to march to the bank’s orders. Its owners are ready to move their operation to non-union auspices in Iowa in an attempt to satisfy the bank so they can continue making their money, the workers be damned.
The owners should learn from this situation that they would have done better to close ranks with their own workers and with the broad array of groups angry about what the big banks are doing to America, rather than siding with the bank. Finance capitalists have shown that they have almost as little concern for small businesses like Republic as they have for workers. Bank of America was more than willing to hang both Republic and its workers out to dry. Any credit that is extended to Republic will result from the fightback initiated by the workers, not from any action taken by the company’s cowardly management.
This time, however, the company and the bank are not getting away with their attempt to make the workers pay for the sin of corporate greed. This time, angry Americans from all walks of life and from every corner of the land are rising up and saying, “Enough!”
They said it loud and clear in the elections. They said it again when they occupied that factory in Chicago. They said it still again when they poured out into the streets of financial districts all across the land this week to demand a people’s bailout, not a Wall Street bailout.
They are saying it when they refuse to allow anything to derail their movement — including all the media attention to corruption in the Illinois governor’s office and right-wing attempts to use the scandal to try to taint the incoming Obama administration.
They will be joined by an ever-growing and continually broadening movement, we believe, until the new dawn that has already broken turns into the bright sunshine of an entirely new day.