Workers of America: Wake Up! We All Need a Union!

We workers of America, white collar, pink collar, blue collar,
and no collar at all, have just gotten a wonderful example of the power of
having a union. It1s an example that should have every unorganized employee
in America looking for a union organizer.

With the recession deepening, it1s clear that major layoffs are
in store, and that employers are going to be putting the squeeze on
employees, even if they don1t drop them. Individually, workers have little
leverage in such a situation.

We workers of America, white collar, pink collar, blue collar,
and no collar at all, have just gotten a wonderful example of the power of
having a union. It1s an example that should have every unorganized employee
in America looking for a union organizer.

With the recession deepening, it1s clear that major layoffs are
in store, and that employers are going to be putting the squeeze on
employees, even if they don1t drop them. Individually, workers have little
leverage in such a situation.

Look what happened to the workers at Chicago-based Republic
Windows and Doors. The company was losing business, and according to some of
its employees, had been in recent weeks secretly moving some heavy equipment
out of the plant, possibly in preparation for relocation to some lower-wage
location. Then its bank, Bank of America, one of the nation1s largest
financial institutions, and a recent recipient of $25 billion in federal
bailout funds from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank, informed
the company that it would not supply credit for the firm to meet payroll.
The workers were told by management that the plant would be shut down in
three days.

At many companies across America, such news would be met by
groans and tears, but by little else. What can an employee do when the boss
says the company is closing its doors? Well, Republic1s workers, members of
the United Electrical Workers union, didn1t take the news lying down. They
took it sitting down on the factory floor.

The company's 300 workers quickly organized a round-the-clock
sit-in occupation of the plant, vowing to stay until they got the 60 days
notice that the law requires in the event of relocations. They also demanded
that they be paid accrued vacation pay, which the company had said would be
lost.

Bank of America was initially unmoved, but the workers began a
national publicity campaign that was leading to protests at B of A offices
across the country (one was planned for tomorrow here in Philadelphia).
Boycotts were also being organized of the bank.

Then this afternoon, Bank of America folded, announcing that in
the face of all the protests and the bad publicity, which focused much on
the fact that the bank that was refusing to lend to a troubled American
manufacturing firm had just received $25 billion from taxpayers that was
intended to 3unfreeze2 credit at the banks, it would after all extend credit
to Republic Windows and Doors.

This is a happy ending story for the workers at Republic, who
will at least get paychecks through the holidays, even if the future of
their company remains iffy.

But more importantly, it is a powerful message to America1s
workers: united we can win. Divided and unorganized, we are going to be
trampled.

There is a second message here too. Americans across the nation
need to contact their congressional representatives and senators, and
President-Elect Barack Obama (who backed the workers at Republic), and
demand that as one of the first acts of the new Congress, they pass into law
the Employee Free Choice Act of employers to stall off union elections for years, and to refuse to
bargain a first contract with a new union. The act, which Obama, during his
campaign, vowed to support, as did nearly all Democratic candidates for
Congress, would require employers to accept the certification of a union
whenever a majority of workers at a workplace signed cards saying they want
a union, and would require them to negotiate and reach a first contract
within 90 days.

Such an act would finally restore some semblance of fairness
into the union organizing process, which has been skewed over the last 40-50
years to be almost impossibly in management1s favor. Little wonder that
union membership in the private sector has fallen to below 9% (from over 30%
back in the early 1950s), even as polls repeatedly show that a majority of
Americans would want to have a union at their job if they could get one.

The Republic Windows and Doors victory is a victory for all
workers in America, and is a clarion call for more unions everywhere.

Let1s get to work and organize.