Chicago Factory Occupation Victory Is Only The Beginning

In the past few days we’ve seen news of 3,500 jobs to be lost by the closing of U.S. Steel facilities in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota; a fan factory laying off 164 workers in Wisconsin; and thousands of auto industry lay-offs still expected, just a few examples of the steady drumbeat that has defined recent months.

But in Chicago, where de-industrialization and off-shoring of manufacturing has characterized the city over the past few decades, there is now a feeling of hope bubbling up among workers.

That is thanks to the roughly 250 workers at a window factory that closed abruptly on December 5, who received only three days notice and no severance pay or compensation for accrued benefits. In what became an international story, the workers occupied the factory for six days and refused to let machinery or inventory be moved until they were paid what was due.

Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase ended up extending $1.75 million to the company to pay workers. But they are not stopping there — rather than taking the money and running, they are trying to keep the factory open.

The struggle has gained massive support in Chicago and beyond. You can read about the history and context and the still unfolding story on my blog, which will be the basis for a book published by Melville House books this spring.

As union local president Armando Robles said at a fund-raiser for the “Window of Opportunity’: fund on December 15, “This isn’t the end of a battle since we got the money. This is only the beginning.”

Kari Lydersen is a staff writer out of The Washington Post midwest bureau and also freelances for publications including The Chicago Reporter and The Progressive. She is the author of three books, including “Revolt on Goose Island” (Melville House Press) released in June 2009. She also teaches Community News at Columbia College and teaches youth journalism in a non-profit program.


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