December 12, 2008

Editorial:

Workers making their voice heard

Sit-in resonating with workers across the country

Three weeks before Christmas, 240 employees of the Republic Windows and Doors in Chi-cago were given three days notice that their jobs were terminated.  If that wasn’t sad enough, they were also told that there was no money for severance pay or for earned vacation pay. Instead of quietly accepting this injustice, the mostly Hispanic employees are staging a sit-in. They are not leaving until they get what they have earned. And they are holding out hope that the plant will reopen.

Under normal circumstances we would have written an editorial that would have decried the undignified treatment of Hispanics, racial bias, or an extension of anti-immigrant atmosphere by the plant’s corporate structure. But these are not normal times. The action taken by the plant is emblematic of what is happening all across the country. What is unusual, are the actions taken by these 240 employees.

Their sit-in transcends race and it is reverberating across the country with millions of employees watching and feeling the pain and helplessness these employees must have felt when they were told they were terminated.

Salaried employees live paycheck to paycheck. There are no golden parachutes. 240 employees were faced with the fact their whole world had just been turned upside down. Now they face the prospect of losing their homes, losing their health insurance, mounting bills, and probably most hurtful of all, Santa may not come for their children this year.

These workers took a stand and said “ya basta”, that is enough. These workers represent the millions of other workers who have been struggling to get by for the past two years as the economy has continued to shrink and the federal government has spent billions upon billions rebuilding Iraq and in bailing out the corporate elite. Meanwhile corporate CEOs are racking in millions in severance pay. Banking CEO Mack Whittle retired early so he could receive his $18 million while his former bank gets federal bailout money.

Since Friday, December 5, 240 members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) have taken a stand. Support for the Republic Windows and Doors workers has poured in from around the country. “Thank you for showing us all how to fight back!” wrote one person. “Here’s to change, from the bottom up,” penned another.

As employee Raul Flores told the Chicago Tribune: “I’m not scared because I’m not alone on this. We’re strong and we’re going to stay. This gives us the strength to keep going. This is going to be for everyone.”

As the economy continues to grow worse this probably will not be the last sit in. The working people are at the end of their rope. They have no where to turn to and they can no longer wait for the government to take action. As more and more people grow desperate the country will continue to see them take action on their behalf. What have they got to lose?

President elect Obama can no longer wait until inauguration day, over a month away, to take action. Action is needed today before it is too late!

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