Workers at bankrupt men's suit maker Hart Schaffner & Marx have stepped up the fight to save their jobs by voting to stage a 'sit-in' if a new owner tries to shut its factory in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Around 500 workers staged a protest yesterday (11 May) against Hartmarx's main creditor Wells Fargo, amid fears it is pushing for a bankruptcy closure of the facility instead of seeking a buyer who will reinvest in the firm.

"Everyone at the plant is worried about their future. It all hinges on Wells Fargo," said Ruby Simms, a 32-year veteran of the Hart Schaffner & Marx factory.

"They have to do the right thing and allow this company to be reorganised - so jobs can be saved."

Anger is directed at Wells Fargo because it received a US$25bn taxpayer bailout at the end of last year - but is now believed to be in favour of closing down Hartmarx with the loss of jobs for those workers who have effectively been subsidising its operations.

However, if Wells Fargo or a buyer tries to begin liquidation or close the factory, the workers have now decided to respond by physically remaining at their job site.

"The vote says Hartmarx workers are going to hold banks accountable for how they spend taxpayers' money and how they contribute to the future of our economy," said Noel Beasley, director of the Chicago/Midwest Regional Joint Board and executive vice president of Workers United, the union that represents the Hartmarx workers.

Chicago-based Hartmarx, the largest men's wear manufacturer in the US, filed for bankruptcy protection in January after US banks curtailed its lines of credit.

The clothing maker employs 3,500 across the nation, with about 1,000 of its employees located in Rock Island and suburban Des Plaines where suits for President Obama are made.