Republic workers plan action against owner

The union representing former employees of Republic Windows and Doors says it plans to file unfair labor practice charges against Rich Gillman, Republic's owner.

The union has scheduled a press conference tomorrow to announce the move.

"The company didn't fulfill its obligation to discuss their plans with us before they shut down," says Armando Robles, the president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical Workers union. "We're filing these charges to ensure that the owners live up to all of their legal obligations and justice is done."

The union says it will seek a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board.

"Now that people have won justice in getting the money they were owed, now we want justice in terms of Rich Gillman being held accountable for his actions in closing the plant," says Leah Fried, union organizer.

Republic officials were not available for comment.

Workers staged a sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors in December after the company shut the plant with little notice.

Republic blamed the closure on Bank of America, saying the bank refused to extend a desperately needed line of credit.

After a six-day protest that attracted support from local and national political leaders, Bank of America provided the company money for employee severance and vacation pay. About 300 workers each received about $6,000.

Still, workers say Republic Windows violated the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies to either give 60 days notice of a plant closing or pay workers 60 days wages from the announcement of the closing.

Union leaders say charges will include shutting down operations without negotiating, not bargaining regarding the impact of the shutdown and improperly setting up a new operation.

In December, the Daily News reported that at the same time Republic was shutting down, owner Rich Gillman had purchased a plant operated by Echo Windows in Red Oak, Iowa.

Labor experts say the union's claims fall under the National Labor Relations Act.

Emily Rosenberg, director of the Labor Education Center at DePaul University, says the law doesn't require a company to negotiate with the union about the primary decision to shut down, but they do have to negotiate about the impact of the decision on the workers, including wages, hours and any retraining or compensation they may offer.

Rosenberg says the facts about Gillman's possible reopening of a non-unionized plant in Iowa show that he may not have been negotiating in good faith, as the workers allege.

"You know they had plenty of time to make the decision, and they said nothing was going on," says Rosenberg. "Where are they getting the money for the plant in Iowa? Were they getting out just to get away from the union?"

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LOU GRANT, 01-06-2009

Nice job Megan. Keep on the story.