Report from the front: Workers arrested as factory assets auctioned off

Reposted from rifuture.org

A dozen workers from the Colibri jewelry plant in East Providence, Rhode Island were arrested today as their plant’s assets were auctioned off by a State appointed receiver.

As bidders drove into the company parking lot in their Mercedes and BMWs, about 200 pickets greeted them with chants of “We’ll go away when we get our pay.” In two separate waves workers sat down in the road blocking access to the cars before they were handcuffed and taken away in police vans. Among those arrested was Shirley Samayoa, a silver haired Grandmother who had worked at the plant for more than 30 years.

For more than two months Colibri workers have been organizing to fight back against what they call the companies refusal to follow the Federal WARN act which is supposed to give workers 60 days notice is a factory is going to shut down. Duane Clinker, a pastor at a local church that has hosted some of the workers' meetings said:

The workers of Colibri lost their jobs without notice in violation of Federal law a few months ago. Against all odds, and with the inspiration of those workers in Chicago who took over their factory to make sure the assets were not given away to tycoons, the Colibri workers have stayed together. They describe their struggle as one that is important to all of us, not just to themselves, and they are right.

As the current AIG bonus case demonstrates, the laws are written in these cases of financial distress primarily to protect people with big money. But the Colibri workers are the people who actually created the products that created the wealth for those who owned from a distance. Their payment must come first, not last.

After the closing, the workers, who did not have union representing them, organized with the help of a local workers rights center named Fuerza Laboral and also with the help of Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, the community labor coalition known for militant direct action. Earlier this month, the Providence City Council and the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed resolutions supporting the efforts of the workers to get the pay and benefits they are entitled to.

Kelley Susaro, a Colibri worker, told a local tv reporter that this isn’t the end of the protest.

“Colibri doesn’t treat us right. Its going to teach companies going forward they can’t pull this on their workers”