NEW HAVEN, CT — UE Local 1110 president Armando Robles and other officers recently toured the country to make public their sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago which won a severance package.
The Connecticut leg of the tour was sponsored by Jobs with Justice chapters to let workers know if companies don’t abide by the law you must make them do the right thing.
While in Connecticut they told their story at a press conference at the state capitol and at a community and labor meeting at the First and Summerfield Methodist Church in New Haven.
Workers at Republic Windows and Doors refused to accept the owners closing of the plant without getting their due advance notice and benefits. Several weeks before the plant closing was announced workers discovered that equipment had been leaving the facility. Some of the workers decided to follow the truck driver to find out where they were taking the equipment. They spoke to the driver and he said he was told to move the equipment. Workers realized that the plant would be closing very soon.
About 240 workers were employed there at the time. Disregarding the law requiring a WARN notice, Republic Windows called the workers and told them the plant was going to close and this is your last pay check.
Robles and Local 1110 vice president Melvin Macklin said they responded, “no way, the workers are going to get what is due to them.” They went to the union office and did a little strategy. They decided to sit in for as long as it takes to get what’s due to them and their respect.
They began a 24 hour sit-in in early December. The company called the police to tell them they had to exit the building. Robles stated to the police this is not your fight, it is between the company and the workers. The police went back to their cars. Worker brought their children to help in the protest. Numerous visitors come into the shop to bring food, sleeping bags, and music.
Robles said that when his shift was over he would go home, take a shower, and then quickly return. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support of the workers.
Macklin said when he told his wife about the plan to sit in, she said “no, you will be arrested.” He replied, “ what do you have to lose?” Once President Obama threw his support to the workers, his wife said it was okay. Some workers didn’t want to take part in the sit-in. Once seeing their co-workers on tv they decided to join their co-workers.
Sit-ins in America don’t happen that often. Since the 1930’s we haven’t had many. When you’re forced to sit-in for your bread and butter workers realize it’s the right thing to do.
As a result of the sit-in the workers achieved a victory. They got a severance package, but knowing how the economy is today that won’t last long.
UE Local 1110 has been in negotiations with a California company to see if they could re-open the plant. They are hoping that if this happens all the workers will be hired back. They will have to go through bankruptcy court to get it approved. They are hoping that by March they will have confirmation for the company to re-open.