To paraphrase the well-known bumpersticker, “Stuff Happens.” But sometimes, It’s good stuff.
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This story began with bad news. In December, a corporation called Republic Windows and Doors abruptly shut down its Chicago factory, giving the boot to 250 union workers. Republic officials said that Bank of America had yanked their financing, so, with only three days notice, the workers were shown the door, their health coverage was canceled, and they were denied the severance and vacation pay they were owed.
Next came surprising news. The workers didn’t go along with this raw deal. In fact, they didn’t go at all. For six day, they protested by simply staying in the factory, refusing to leave until they were paid. Their defiant stand captured the public’s imagination, generating widespread news coverage and support. Then, some good stuff happened. Bank of America, which had just taken a $34 billion bailout from us taxpayers, couldn’t withstand the public outrage that its Chicago terminations generated – so it finally had to give in, shelling out nearly $2 million to cover the pay the bank had taken from these union workers.
That’s good, but here comes the great stuff. In February, a California company called Serious Materials announced that it had bought the factory and would soon reopen it to make energy-efficient windows. It then reached agreement with the union to re-hire all of the terminated workers at their former levels of pay. The company, which manufactures sustainable green building materials, says that it views the skilled, blue-collar workers in Chicago as terrific assets to help it and the country develop the emerging green economy that president Obama is advancing with the new economic stimulus plan.
So, workers win, the environment wins, and the economy wins. What we have here is a blue-green victory for the red, white and blue.
"The issue isn't just jobs. Even slaves had jobs. The issue is wages." --Jim Hightower