Last week workers who were laid off from Republic Windows and Doors entered the factory where they once worked and refused to leave. They insist that the state force the company to live up to their responsibilities. They are asking for severance pay and reimbursement for their vacation time and health care that disappeared with their jobs.
Surely this is unreasonable, right? After all, the economy is bad and their company went out of business…it happens. Well, no. Nothing in this economy just “happens.” It turns out that Republic knew that they were going out of business months before, but gave no notice to their employees. There’s also some evidence that Republic was being closed down, employees cast to the street in the bitter, Illinois cold just before Christmas so the owners could re-open the company under another name in Iowa. Let’s hear it for the capitalist ethic! Let’s hear it for Christmas spirit!
What’s more, remember that $700 billion that was given to the banks? If you are a reader of this blog, I don’t let you forget it. Well, it turns out that Bank of America, a bank that didn’t even need the money, received $15 billion from the bailout package and is slated to receive another $10 billion next year.
So what are they doing with your tax money, money that was intended to open credit lines to shore up business and keep workers employed? We really don’t know. There’s no oversight. But what we do know is that they are not using it for its intended purposes…at least not in the case of Republic Windows and Doors.
For the last few months RWD has been trying to negotiate an open credit line with its bank, Bank of America, to save their business and keep their employees working. BofA has consistently refused to extend credit. Imagine that. What could they possibly be doing with all of that money? Could it be that they are lining their own pockets? Naah!
As for the workers, these are people who want nothing more than to go to work. They are not asking for much, no handouts, no entitlement, just what is due them by law and by virtue of every interpretation of business ethics. But like millions of Americans who don’t happen to be major bankers they have limited resources to be heard. The only measure open to them is civil disobedience.
And it appears to be working. Currently, the state of Illinois has suspended all business transactions with Bank of America. Ordinances have been introduced in Cook County and the City of Chicago to do the same. Even President-elect Obama has stated his support for the plight of these American workers.
By now it should be obvious that when bankers can do whatever they want, they do just that. When given gobs of money they take care of themselves first, foremost and exclusively. I call it the Law of Institutions: The primary function of an institution is the perpetuation and empowerment of the institution. The concept of civil responsibility has no value to them. If we want bankers to be responsible then we must force them.
When individuals are left with no legitimate recourse to take care of their needs they will endeavor to take care of those needs by any means left them. In this case, the act of civil disobedience. As this economy fails, and institutions scurry to protect themselves at the expense of individuals, we can expect more such actions. It will be in the state’s best interest to allow for peaceful resolution to these issues and support such radical actions. Historically, this has not been the case, as the state usually supports market interests.
Show your support for the measures taken by the State of Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago. Support the workers. After all, your job could be next. Go to the Activism page at http://www.madsociologist.net and let the pols know that you support the workers.