[Marxism] Chicago workers' sit-in becomes rallying point

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Mon Dec 8 03:23:14 MST 2008

I think that this Associated Press title captures a really great aspect of
the sit-in.  These primarily Latin@ workers are setting an example of
struggle and fight-back (and courage to challenge 'private property') and
generating a spreading sense of working class solidarity, including against
the unfair bail-outs which are for capitalists only.

Along the lines of the caution Fred wrote, the actual 'demands' of this
struggle are relatively conservative.  They are apparently asking for the
company to pay benefits written into their union contract.  As Obama
carefully says "The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments
that they have earned, I think they're absolutely right..."

Comparisons are being made to the auto industry strikes of the latter 1930s
but the famous Flint strike in the winter of 1936-37 was a "sit-down"
strike.  The auto workers were stopping production and aggressively
intruding on the prerogatives of the owners.  In this case the owners have
stopped production and apparently practically fled.  It seems that they
don't want to take responsibility for the factory premises, not to mention
their legal obligations to the laid-off employees.

Chicago workers' sit-in becomes rallying point By RUPA SHENOY, Associated
Press Writer

CHICAGO – Workers staging a sit-in on the factory floor of their former
Chicago employer to protest abruptly losing their jobs last week awaited a
meeting between their union and the company on Monday.

The 200 workers demanding severance and vacation pay have become a national
symbol for thousands of employees laid off nationwide as the economy
continues to sour. On Sunday, they received words of support from
President-elect Barack Obama and a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also said her office was
investigating their former employer, Republic Windows and Doors.

"We never expected this," said Melvin Maclin, a factory employee and vice
president of the local union that represents the workers. "We expected to go
to jail."

At a news conference Sunday, Obama said Republic should follow through on
its commitments to its workers. The workers say they won't leave the plant
until they are assured they'll receive their severance and vacation pay.

"The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have
earned, I think they're absolutely right and understand that what's
happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy,"
Obama said.

Jackson delivered turkeys, pledging the support of his Chicago-based civil
rights group, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

"These workers deserve their wages, deserve fair notice, deserve health
security," Jackson said. "This may be the beginning of long struggle of
worker resistance finally."

Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers union that
represents the workers, said the company told the union that Bank of
Americahas canceled its financing. The bank had said in a statement
that it wasn't
responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

Republic has not commented on the sit-in.

One of the factory's workers, Silvia Mazon, said in Spanish that she needs
the money owed to her for an $1,800 monthly house payment. The 40-year-old
from Cicero said she has enough money saved to survive for one month.

"We're making history," she said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, called it the start of a
movement. "This story has resonated around the world," she said.

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