by Richard Becker
A sit-in and protest was held in San Francisco on Dec. 9 as an act of solidarity with workers who have been sitting in since Dec. 5 at the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago. Four people were arrested after sitting in at a downtown office of the Bank of America during the protest in San Francisco.
Bank of America, which has received tens of billions in taxpayers’ money from the bank bailout, triggered the plant closing by cutting off credit to the company to pay workers their wages and ongoing expenses. The shutdown of the plant without notice is a violation of federal law.
The workers, members of the United Electrical Workers union, have refused to leave the factory until they are paid in full for wages, unused vacation time and other compensation due to them. They are also demanding that Bank of America extend credit so that the plant can remain open and they can keep their jobs.
The solidarity demonstration in San Francisco was organized on less than 24 hours notice. It was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and endorsed by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Justice First, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO), among others. A meeting of 70 delegates of the S.F. Labor Council enthusiastically and unanimously voted to endorse the protest at their bi-weekly meeting held the night before.
As trade unionists, other workers and progressive activists picketed outside chanting “Bailout the workers, not the banks,” four activists entered the Powell and Market branch of the bank, declaring that they would not leave until there was justice for the Chicago workers. After a short standoff, the four were arrested for trespassing. They are Jon Britton and Chris Banks of the ANSWER Coalition, John Reiman of the IWW, and Gloria La Riva, president of the Typographical Sector of the Northern California Media Workers Union and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s 2008 presidential candidate.
As those who had been arrested were brought out of the bank, they and the San Francisco police who arrested them were surrounded by spirited picketers, chanting, “Let them go!”
The protest drew the attention of hundreds of people in the downtown area, and some of them joined the picket line. Among the speakers at the event were Clarence Thomas, Executive Board member, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10; Frank Martin del Campo, member of the Executive Committee of the S.F. Labor Council; Richard Becker, ANSWER Coalition; and Gloria La Riva.
The arrested activists were cited and released later in the evening.
For more information on the Chicago plant sit-in, visit http://www.ueunion.org/ue_republic.html.