City aldermen expressed their support for the Republic Windows and Doors employee sit-in, introducing an ordinance requiring the city to cut off all business with Bank of America, which the workers say won't give them they money they're owed.
Alderman Joe Moore (D-49) made the announcement. He says the bank will receive around $34 billion from the federal government by year's end - money he says should go to companies and workers in situations like the one at Republic.
The proposal is a "wake up call" for Bank of America, Moore says. He'll pull it from consideration if the bank cuts a deal that pays the workers, he says.
"We have no legal authority to tell Bank of America to spend the federal bailout money for the purpose it was intended," Moore said at a press conference at city hall this afternoon." But we certainly can refuse to do business with a company that has so little regard for the welfare of our workers and families."
Moore says he does not know how much money the city had invested in Bank of America, only that it was "tens of millions of dollars."
Many other council members, including Manuel Flores (D-1), Ricardo Munoz (D-22), Toni Preckwinkle (D-4), Leslie Hairston (D-5), Pat Dowell (D-3), Ed Smith (D-28) Toni Foulkes (D-15) and Bob Fioretti (D-2), joined Moore at the press conference.
Workers at Republic Windows and Doors, a factory on Goose Island, say company officials told them last Tuesday that the plant was closing because Bank of America would not give them the $5 million in financing needed to stay open.
Workers are also owed at least 60 days pay, and accrued vacation days under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Company officials told workers they would not be able to pay and workers staged the sit-in demanding the money.
Today, a few workers left the sit-in to attend the aldermen's press conference.
Vicente Rangel, a worker at Republic, says the support of so many local leaders gives him hope that Bank of America will meet their demands.
"I am very proud that our politicians are listening to us and hearing our voices," says Rangel.
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley also announced that he would be introducing a similar ordinance, requiring the county to stop doing business with Bank of America.
Carl Rosen, regional president of the United Electrical Workers, the union that represents the workers at Republic, spoke in support of the resolution and said he has hope for a future for Republic.
Bank officials have not returned telephone calls seeking comment.
"What we would like to see is Bank of America and all the other financial institutions that are involved do is bring in a new ownership team and get this company back on its feet," he said.
Rosen also said he had received commitments from several public agencies to assist in the process of finding a new owner for Republic.
Rosen confirmed that union officials were set to meet with Bank of America and representatives from Republic Windows and Doors today at 4 p.m. at Bank of America's headquarters.
He said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4) and other public officials who voiced support for the workers were expected to attend the meeting.