Blog: Workers stand up for a sit-in
Leonie Barrie | 14 May 2009
Workers at one US garment factory threatened with closure have turned to a new tactic to try to help them save their jobs: a sit-in to stand up for their rights.
Around 500 employees at bankrupt men's suit maker Hart Schaffner & Marx (Hartmarx) earlier this week voted in favour of a 'sit-in' if a new owner tries to shut the company’s factory in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Many held signs reading, ‘Bail Out People, Not Banks’ in reference to Hartmarx’s main creditor Wells Fargo, which received a US$25bn taxpayer bailout at the end of last year but is believed to want the company to close with the loss of around 3,600 jobs instead of seeking a buyer who will reinvest in the firm.
The injustice of taxpayers bailing out a financial institution, and then potentially losing their jobs when this bank fails to invest in US companies and workers, not surprisingly seems to be hard for many to stomach.
Although Wells Fargo, which is owed $114m by Hartmarx, has its own take on the saga, arguing it is not sound banking practice to lend money to a company that can’t pay it back.
The sit-in style action – which ironically comes just months after Barack Obama wore Hartmarx suits during his presidential campaign – means the workers will refuse to leave the factory if a liquidation or shut-down begins.
And it has its precedent in a similar stance taken by 250 Republic Windows and Doors workers who saved their own jobs last December when Bank of America tried to shutter their doors.
There’s also support from state and national leaders, with the state of Illinois threatening to withdraw its business from [Wells Fargo] unless Hartmarx remains open.
The action serves as a clear warning call against short-sighted banking practices that cost American jobs – and that banks should instead be held accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ money.
But with the likelihood of company closures and job losses ever present right now, it could also mark the shape of things to come.
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