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Why Workers Are Upset With Corporate America

December 14, 2008

A few paragraphs pack a punch and underscore why unions matter.  The workers at Republic Windows just outside of Chicago won their battle after a sit-in, but the extenuating circumstances with the company is enough to make all workers understand that corporate America is not their friend.  Or moral.

The tale of how this small band of workers came to embody the welter of emotions in the country’s economic downturn is flecked with plot turns from the deepening recession, growing anger over the Wall Street bailout and difficult business calculations. The workers were not aware, for example, that Republic’s owners had quietly set up a new company, Echo Windows LLC, incorporated on Nov. 18, according to records with the Illinois secretary of state’s office. And Echo had bought a window and door manufacturing plant in Red Oak, Iowa.

Company officials in Iowa declined to comment, but Mary Lou Friedman, the human resources manager at Echo, said in a telephone interview that the factory had 102 employees, all nonunion.

And at the last minute of negotiations, according to Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, who helped moderate talks to resolve the standoff, and union officials, Republic’s chief executive, Richard Gillman, demanded that any new bank loan to help the employees also cover the lease of several of his cars — a 2007 BMW 350xi and a 2002 Mercedes S500 are among those registered to company addresses — as well as eight weeks of his salary, at $225,000 a year.

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