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Chicago’s factory activism
Why the Republic Windows and Doors sit-in hits a nerve
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hat happened
Bank of America agreed to extend a limited amount of new loans to Republic Windows and Doors to resolve a five-day-old sit-in by some 200 union workers at Republic’s Chicago plant. Republic laid off the workers with only three days’ notice, and has not said if it will honor a federal law that requires either 60 days’ notice or an equal amount of severance pay. Bank of America shut off credit to Republic last week. (Chicago Tribune)

What the commentators said
“Shady” Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich “may have ended Tuesday in disgrace,” said Lisa LaMotta in Forbes online, but he can “be credited with doing at least one good thing—he was able to guilt-trip Bank of America” into action. Blagojevich threatened to withhold “lucrative Illinois state business” from the bank unless it helped out the workers.

President-elect Obama also backed the workers, or at least their goals, said Peter Cohan in BloggingStocks. “The company should pay those workers what they’re owed,” but Obama is stepping into questionable legal territory. By backing the sit-in’s goals, is he “inadvertently encouraging workers around the country to pursue similar tactics?”

Whether or not the 1930s “throwback” of factory sit-ins becomes “depressingly familiar” again, said Paul Mirengoff in Power Line, threatening Bank of America is misguided. Blagojevich argued that the bank should step in with its federal bailout funds, but Congress didn’t require that the bailout help Republic or other “failing businesses that the banks have no confidence in.”

“The entire justification of this bailout package was to unfreeze credit and help businesses access capital again,” said Kelly Spors in The Wall Street Journal online. The Republic workers aren’t the only ones wanting to know why established small businesses can’t get credit from Bank of America and other recipients of the taxpayers’ “bountiful financial rescue.”

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