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You all probably know by now that workers at Republic Windows have occupied the factory and are demanding their legal right to severance pay and vacation pay as the plant closes.

CHICAGO - Workers laid off from their jobs at a factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay that they say they are owed.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant's operation.

"We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours.

Union Workers Occupy Chicago Factory! Updated with How to Help.

I didn't think he'd do it, but he did.  I figured Obama would sit this one out.  I mean, occupying a factory is illegal, at least formalistically.  There could be a political downside.  He didn't have to say anything.  But I was wrong.

Obama's statement, after the fold.

"When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right," Obama said Sunday at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. "What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.

"When you have a financial system that is shaky, credit contracts. Businesses large and small start cutting back on their plants and equipment and their workforces. That’s why it’s so important for us to maintain a strong financial system. But it’s also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren’t just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they are designed to get money out the doors and to help people on Main Street. So, number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned their benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments."

Chicago Sun Times

He avoided endorsing the sit down strike directly, but he said the workers were right in their cause.  That's good enough for me.

This is really big for me.  I think Obama will fight for EFCA, because he believes in it.  I have my doubts and criticisms from time to time, and I express them, but Obama's statement today makes me think he really meant this Labor Day message:

Hello everybody. This Labor Day weekend, we don’t just celebrate the end of summer; we also honor the hardworking men and women who have made this country what it is and the American labor movement that has fought tirelessly to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions.

America was built by its laborers, but today our workers are struggling just to get by in an economy that no longer works for them. That’s why we can’t afford four more years of the failed George Bush economic policies - policies that Senator McCain has proudly embraced and promises to continue.

It’s time we had a President who will stand up for working men and women by building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but work and the workers who create it. It’s time you had a partner in the White House who knows that the struggles facing working families can’t be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, and that hardworking families need immediate relief.

snip

It’s time you had a President who honors organized labor - who’s walked on picket lines; who doesn’t choke on the word "union"; who lets our unions do what they do best and organize our workers; and who will finally make the Employee Free Choice Act the law of the land.

That is the choice in this election. We can choose to remain on the path that has abandoned workers and gotten our economy in so much trouble, or we can reclaim the idea that in America, opportunity is open to anyone who’s willing to work for it.

I’ve spent my entire career fighting for working men and women. And so has my running mate, Joe Biden, a man whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class. With him by my side, I am confident that we can take this country in a new direction and restore that fair shot at your dreams that is at the core of what Joe Biden and I stand for, and what America stands for as a nation.

Change to Win:   A Labor Day Message From Barack Obama

Obama has walked picket lines:

Barack Obama joined strikers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago demanding fair wages and benefits for all workers.  July 17, 2007, during Yearly Kos.

Barack Obama showed solidarity today with these workers.  That's real change!

(I published a version of this diary on docudharma earlier this evening:

http://www.docudharma.com/... )

Update I:  There was great support in Chicago today for the workers:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered turkeys to the workers, pledging the support of his Chicago-based civil rights group, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

"These workers deserve their wages, deserve fair notice, deserve health security," Jackson said. "This may be the beginning of long struggle of worker resistance finally."

snip

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, called it the start of a movement. "This story has resonated around the world," she said.

msnbc.com: Chicago workers’ sit-in becomes rallying point

Update II:  How you can help.  

From the UE International Worker Justice Campaign.

Politely but firmly call Kenneth Lewis, CEO Bank of America, and tell him to extend financing to Republic.

Kenneth Lewis
Bank of America
704-386-5687

Originally posted to TomP on Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 10:05 PM PST.

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