Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emergency Protests Demand: "Bail Out Workers, Not Bank of America"

Emergency protests demand: “Bail out the workers, not Bank of America”

By Monica Moorehead
Published Dec 10, 2008 9:16 PM

Dec. 10—-Today, the sixth day of the workers’ occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago, emergency actions took place in cities across the country in support of the takeover targeting local Bank of America offices and buildings. Today’s demonstrations are part of a Dec. 8-13 week of solidarity with the Republic workers and were called on one- to two-day notice by community and political activists to raise a broader awarenss.

A Dec. 7 Bail Out the People Movement statement reads in part: “About 250 employees of Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago began an occupation of the plant on Friday, Dec. 5, the last scheduled day of the plant’s operation. The workers, members of the United Electrical Workers Union Local 1110, were not given the legally mandated 60-day prior notification of the plant´s closing; also the plant´s management and owners did not show up to a meeting with the workers scheduled for Dec. 5.

“The workers decided to occupy the plant. They have vowed to stay in the plant until they receive, at the very least, 60 days pay. The owners say that they had to close because Bank of America refused to extend them any more credit. The Bank of America has received hundreds of billions of dollars over the past three months in bailout money from the government.

“These workers, who are overwhelmingly Latin@ immigrants, have taken a courageous stand by putting their bodies on the line in their fight for the right to feed their families and to be treated with respect and dignity like all human beings. In a way, they are fighting for the rights of all workers who are under attack, whether they are restaurant workers, public employees or auto workers fighting to hold on to their jobs and union.

“We must stand with them.”

Baltimore

In Baltimore about 25-30 people came out in the rain to protest against Bank of America where an open microphone rally took place. A delegation of four people attempted to deliver a protest letter to the bank manager, who refused to accept the letter. The delegation pledged to hold another picket in front the bank in the near future.

Buffalo

A noisy and militant demonstration in support of the Chicago UE workers was also held in Buffalo, N.Y., in front of the downtown Bank of America headquarters building. It was well received in a city that was hit the same day with another round of local job losses and threats to auto workers. Representatives from the International Action Center, WNY Peace Center, an anarchist youth group, and Citizen Action participated.

Two rallies in Chicago

In Chicago, a thousand protesters of many nationalities surrounded a downtown Bank of America office on a bitter cold day. Among the labor unions represented were UE and SEIU locals. Two support rallies were held. Activists traveled from Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Baltimore and elsewhere to demand justice for the Republic workers.

Detroit

In Detroit, 75 protesters held a very spirited and militant demonstration at the Detroit headquarters of Bank of America in the Guardian Building downtown in the heart of the financial district. Called by the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, the action received media coverage from FOX 2, USA Today, the Detroit Free Press, a documentary film crew, Peoples Tribune and others.

Besides raising the demands of the Republic workers, there was support for Lorene Parker, who is being foreclosed by Bank of America in Detroit. Ms. Parker addressed the crowd and the media.

The protesters went into the lobby of the building and occupied it for about ten minutes, chanting slogans against foreclosure and for a moratorium. Security was nowhere in sight. The receptionists threatened to call the cops. The response from the protesters was, “Go ahead; we pay your salaries, not the bank.”

Los Angeles

In downtown Los Angeles, the Bank of America office near Pershing Square shut their doors before the official closing time to avoid the real possibility of having protesters come in to disrupt business there. Picketers chanted, “Bank of America, shame on you, save the plant for Chicago workers;” “Bail out the people, not the banks;” and “Banks got bailed out, they got sold out, justice, justice for UE workers.” Protesters included activists from Bayan-USA, SEIU Local 721, Labor-Community Coalition and the International Action Center.

New York City

“Chicago workers lead the fight; A job is a right”, was one of many chants heard on a picket line in front of a New York City Bank of America office across from City Hall. The action was co-sponsored by the Bail Out the People Movement and the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Worker’s Rights. When the New York police tried to tell the protesters that they could not hold a protest in front of the bank, activists told them that the sidewalk is public property and that they had the right to stay. The police then backed off and picket line proceeded.

Workers World spoke with a veteran UE supporter Lillian Liftlander—her name was Rosenberg in the 1940s when she worked as a researcher for the union in the national office. “I came out today because it is the UE. I really like the slogan, ‘Bank of America gets bailed out; we got sold out.’” This Manhattan resident still gets the UE news and tries to weigh in when she can.

“The UE took part in a demonstration in Washington, D.C., a few years ago,” she said, “and the workers all wore shirts that had printed on the back: ‘The members run this union.’ That’s what’s best about the UE.” Liftlander sent greetings from her 98-year-old union buddy who just wasn’t up to picketing this rainy day.

Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, a protest was held at the Center City Bank of America in the rain. Ten minutes before the picket was scheduled to start, there were already people there with their own hand made signs and banners. Twenty or more people came for some part of the rally and received a significantly positive response from people going by. Activists from the International Action Center, IWW, Action AIDS, Code Pink, and from union participated. There was also a “honk against the bailout- solidarity with the Chicago workers” sign which got a very good response.

Raleigh

In Raleigh, N.C. many public workers, members of UE local 150 and community supporters gathered at the legislature chanting “Bail Out the Workers, Not the Banks” and then marched down to the Bank of America financial buildings to deliver a message of solidarity to their brothers and sisters in Chicago at Republic Windows and Doors plant.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, ANSWER, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement-SF Chapter (LCLAA) co-sponsored a solidarity demonstration with the Chicago Republic workers at the Bank of America office. Four people were arrested at the protest. Supporters of death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal also joined this demonstration. ILWU Local 10 members, including Clarence Thomas, were in attendance.

Contributors to this round-up are Abayomi Azikiwe, Sharon Black, John Catalinotto, Steven Ceci, Ellie Dorrittie, Jerry Goldberg, Larry Hales, Kris Hamel, Cheryl LaBash, Joan Marquardt, Betsey Piette and Dante Strobino.
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