CHICAGO – On Monday the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE) here announced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is charging the owners of Republic Windows and Doors with violating federal labor law.
Two hundred and fifty Republic workers conducted a six-day sit-in last December when the plant was abruptly closed and the worker’s vacation and severance pay and health benefits were illegally denied. The sit-in, which garnered international solidarity, enabled the workers to win all their demands even though the plant closed.
The NLRB has issued a decision that agrees with the union’s allegations.
They include: Republic illegally created an alter-ego company in Red Oak, Iowa in order to avoid its collective bargaining obligations with the union; Republic illegally shut down operations in Chicago and transferred work to Red Oak; Iowa without any notice or bargaining with the union; and Republic illegally failed to provide information for bargaining or process grievances as required under the collective bargaining agreement.
The Labor Board plans to approach Republic’s owner to seek a settlement based on the charges. If a settlement is not reached, NLRB will then go before an administration law judge to order a resolution.
“All this is too late to change the abuses of our rights by Republic management,” said Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110 in a recent release. “We were deliberately denied our rights and protections under the union contract and law, only the occupation of our factory in December 2008 won justice for the workers,” he said.
Last month California-based Serious Materials bought the Chicago factory and is in the process of re-opening it. The new owners have reached an agreement with UE Local 1110 to rehire all former Republic workers at their former rate of pay and allow the union to continue representing them.
Serious Materials has other production facilities in California, Colorado and a newly acquired plant in Pennsylvania. The super insulated window designs currently exceed energy efficiency standards in the Energy Star program set by the Environmental Protection Agency and DOE by 200-400 percent.
UE said in a recent release that companies routinely violate workers rights with no penalty saying there are more fines involved in a parking ticket than breaking federal labor law. Without the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for all workers to organize and join unions, more workers will have to resort to sit-in tactics like the plant occupation at Republic in order to get their most basic rights respected and to be able to support their families.