Sunday, December 7, 2008

Laid Off Workers Take Over the Factory

To use a famous quote from an Oscar winning movie in 1976, Network, the employees at a Chicago manufacturing company seemed to be saying, "We are mad as hell and not going to take it any more!"

About 200 employees, very upset about lost vacation pay, disappearing medical insurance and lack of severance pay, have staged a "sit-in", at the factory where they worked. The company failed to give the 60 days notice that is required by law before shutting down and instead only told workers 3 days before closing the doors.

Workers were also angered by the fact that the management team did not show up for a meeting scheduled for this past Friday.

It appears that monthly sales for the company, Republic Windows and Doors had fallen from $4Million to $2.9Million during the last month.

Although not a popular practice here in the United States since the 1930’s, a little bit of internet research showed that it is not uncommon in other countries for workers to “take over” companies.

Case in point, a few weeks ago, Vivex, makers of windscreens for cars, was taken over by 360 workers in Venezuela because of the non-payment of the "utilidades" or profit bonus. Workers are demanding that the government nationalize the company and look at the books to verify company losses.

Thank heavens there are no such chants, yet, for the government to take over companies like Republic Windows and Doors. However, one has to wonder what is to come. Have we set a bad precedence for choosing to bail out some companies and not help others? If Congress chooses to support Ford, GM and Chrysler with a $17B bridge loan, who will be next in line?

Who is going to bail out the millions of small businesses that may have to close their doors?

Employees need to really stay focused on their work evironment and scan the horizon for possible changes that may impact them.

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