The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ali Jost, 202-730-7159 (SEIU), Carlyn Foster, 202-730-7125 (SEIU)
Trevor Kincaid, 202-225-2111 (Rep. Schakowsky)

SEIU Launches New 'Keep America Working' Hotline and Website to Support Workers and Small Business Owners as Big Banks Push to Liquidate

Worker “Sit Ins” Grow As Nearly 1000 Hartmarx Workers Vote this Week to “Sit in” to Save their Jobs from Liquidation by Wells Fargo


Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched a toll-free hotline and website-Keep America Working-to support small business owners and workers facing job loss because of frozen credit and liquidation at the hands of bailed-out banks. The new hotline number is 877-286-1Job and will be open Monday-Friday from 8 am to 6 pm EDT, and the new website is

As we've seen just this week, nearly 1000 workers at two Hart Schaffner & Marx (Hartmarx) factories voted to "sit in" to save their jobs from liquidation by bailout recipient Wells Fargo. In response to the growing "sit in" phenomenon, SEIU created this hotline and website to provide a voice for workers and small businesses similarly trapped by the reckless lending of bailout recipient banks.

"There is a lot of uncertainty at the plant," said Ruby Sims, a 32-year veteran of the Hart Schaffner & Marx factory in Des Plaines, IL. "All of us are worried about the future. We want Wells Fargo to do the right thing and keep this great company going."

Up until now, there has been no system in place to hold banks accountable for their lending practices, despite the fact that they have received more than $410 billion in taxpayer bailout funds in an effort to restore lending and get the economy moving. The Keep America Working hotline and website will help shed light on the shortsighted practices of big banks who have failed to live up to their responsibilities to taxpayers and are now pushing for company and worker liquidation. The hotline will also connect workers and small business owners with resources to take action and save their jobs.

"Representative Hare and I are working with our colleagues on a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner to enlist his help in getting Wells Fargo do the right thing and keep Hart Marx open, save 4,000 jobs and send a clear signal to other banks to do the right thing when they face similar situations," said Representative Schakowsky (D-IL). "The whole idea of taxpayer help for the banks was to make sure we were not losing these good jobs, these good union jobs, for people like Ruby and families throughout my district."

In addition to the hotline, SEIU is dedicating a team to help workers and small business owners take action in their communities and connect them with community activists, neighbors, elected officials and others to raise awareness of the implications of taxpayer bailout banks' decisions on local employment and economic well-being.

"Wells Fargo has an obligation to do all it can to save Hartmarx and preserve jobs; that is why they received the federal bailout money. It really is pretty simple, they should be a part of the solution - not causing further problems in our economy," said Tom Balanoff, President of the SEIU Illinois State Council.

Big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo received hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout funds so they could remain solvent and start lending again to get the economy moving. Instead, they're freezing loans and putting small businesses in danger of closing. As the unemployment rate soars to over 8.9 percent, workers and businesses need a voice to hold bailout recipient banks accountable for irresponsible financing practices.

"Big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo need to stop trampling on hardworking Americans and small business owners," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "Liquidating small businesses is a far cry from putting the economy back on track. It's time big banks make good on their promise to restore lending and become partners, not adversaries."

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.