Politicians, Wobblies pile on to support Chicago workers; BoA caves

The Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation turned out to be the right action at the right time. It attracted solidarity from Jobs with Justice, congresspeople, President Elect Obama, and from the New York City IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, a longstanding union built on anarchist principles). The NYC solidarity action visited 3 Bank of America offices:

The net result…

The 240 workers who had occupied the factory since its abrupt closing Dec. 5 voted unanimously Wednesday night to accept a deal to pay them severance, vacation time, and temporary health care benefits. The $1.75 million agreement was negotiated over three days with the workers’ union, Republic owners and lender Bank of America.

Union negotiators were unable to obtain a commitment from the parties to reopen the Goose Island plant, said United Electrical Workers organizer Mark Meinster. So the union has decided to forge ahead to find someone new to run the plant, he said, using some of the money donated from around the world during the sit-in. (Chicago Tribune)

The settlement, happily coming on my birthday, includes the following:

The settlement totals $1.75million. It will provide the workers with:

– Eight weeks of pay [workers] are owed under the federal WARN Act;
– Two months of continued health coverage, and;
– Pay for all accrued and unused vacation.

JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America. Although the money will be provided as a loan to Republic Windows and Doors, it will go directly into a third-party fund whose sole purpose is to pay the workers what is owed them. In addition, the UE has started the “Window of Opportunity Fund” dedicated to re-opening the plant. (Jobs with Justice)

Of course, larger success will come (or not come) as these tactics are taken up across the country, as they change agenda and form of contest, and if they make workers (and, yes, that’s us) think of themselves as owning the economy instead of just working for it.

For now the threat alone may have an impact as well, as U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) put it, “This Republic Windows saga, I’m sure, is reverberating throughout boardrooms in America.”

Bitch, Ph.D. notes insightfully:

The last time American workers resisted mass layoffs this way, we ended up with a middle class.
And that’s change you can believe in.

Bailout Protest on Wall Street

Responding to an open call circulating in the city, some 300 protesters against the bailout plan gathered in New York’s financial district and marched to the New York Stock Exchange at Wall St. and Broad yesterday afternoon. The crowd was loud, diverse and fed up. Video coverage of the rally is part of today’s Democracy Now! The Indypendent has a live blog archive of the protest. Click on the picture below for more Indymedia photos.

Facing the New York Stock Exchange, protesters filled the intersection and the steps of Federal Hall
Facing the New York Stock Exchange, protesters filled the intersection and the steps of Federal Hall

Apparently, we weren’t the only people pissed off, either. TrueMajority.com is hosting a bulletin board for coordinating protests, with over 250 planned or carried out already, as covered her by CNN.

Being on the streets, there was a happy thrill to be back in force, in a protest taking over Wall Street for my first time since the J18 protest against the G8,* when a Reclaim the Streets protest flooded that intersection for nearly an hour. Of course, this time, our connection to most Americans was much more organic, as everyone from New York anarchists to Montana’s governor are raising big questions about this handover of government loans for junk securities.

What was strange, though, was to look so many Wall Street traders in the eyes. While many waded into the crowd to snap photos with their IPhones, others were visibly unnerved at the display of public opposition. And is the unfortunate nature of public protests we weren’t being the most articulate in our chants (see Tom Tomorrow from 1992 below), even if we were some times hillarious saying things like: “You break it, you bought it” and “You fucked up. Suck it up.” Above all, we needed to be loud and unequivocal in just the right physical space. Thankfully the media was the outlet for my desire to be articulate, and apparently for others desire if you listen to Democracy Now!

How we have to protest when the media and the two parties speak in unison
How we have to protest when the media and the two parties speak in unison

*Some of you may remember I worked on another more recent protest there, but I spent the morning working phones off-site.

$700B! WTF? New York to talk back to Wall Street THURSDAY

A do-it-yourself protest is gathering to counter the rush “do something” by bailing out Wall Street. More thoughts from me soon on how “we” got into this mess, and what options there are, but here’s one place to pull the emergency brake on the train to spending $700 billion of our money to buy bad debt. Seems to me all the times we’ve asked for our money for something useful, we’re told there isn’t any…

When: 4pm Thursday, September 25!
Where: Southern end of Bowling Green Park, in the plaza area
What to bring: Banners, noisemakers, signs, leaflets, etc.
Why: To say we won’t pay for the Wall Street bailout
Everyone,

This week the White House is going to try to push through the biggest robbery in world history with nary a stitch of debate to bail out the Wall Street bastards who created this economic apocalypse in the first place.

This is the financial equivalent of September 11. They think, just like with the Patriot Act, they can use the shock to force through the “therapy,” and we’ll just roll over!

Think about it: They said providing healthcare for 9 million children, perhaps costing $6 billion a year, was too expensive, but there’s evidently no sum of money large enough that will sate the Wall Street pigs. If this passes, forget about any money for environmental protection, to counter global warming, for education, for national healthcare, to rebuild our decaying infrastructure, for alternative energy.

This is a historic moment. We need to act now while we can influence the debate. Let’s demonstrate this Thursday at 4pm in Wall Street (see below). We know the congressional Democrats will peep meekly before caving in like they have on everything else, from FISA to the Iraq War.

With Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie, AIG, the money markets and now this omnibus bailout, well in excess of $1 trillion will be distributed from the poor, workers and middle class to the scum floating on top.

This whole mess gives lie to the free market. The Feds are propping up stock prices, directing buyouts, subsidizing crooks and swindlers who already made a killing off the mortgage bubble.

Worst of all, even before any details have been hashed out, The New York Times admits that “Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it,” and its chief financial correspondent writes that the Bush administration wants “Congress to give them a blank check to do whatever they want, whatever the cost, with no one able to watch them closely.”

It’s socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest of us. Let’s take it to the heart of the financial district! Gather at 4pm, this Thursday, Sept. 25 in the plaza at the southern end of Bowling Green Park, which is the small triangular park that has the Wall Street bull at the northern tip.

By having it later in the day we can show these thieves, as they leave work, we’re not their suckers. Plus, anyone who can’t get off work can still join us downtown as soon as they are able.

There is no agenda, no leaders, no organizing group, nothing to endorse other than we’re not going to pay! Let the bondholders pay, let the banks pay, let those who brought the “toxic” mortgage-backed securities pay!

On this list are many key organizers and activists. We have a huge amount of connections – we all know many other organizations, activists and community groups. We know P.R. folk who can quickly write up and distribute press releases, those who can contact legal observers, media
activists who can spread the word, the videographers who can film the event, etc.

Do whatever you can – make and distribute your own flyers, contact all your groups and friends. This crime is without precedence and we can’t be silent! What’s the point of waiting for someone else to organize a protest two months from now, long after the crime has been perpetrated?

We have everything we need to create a large, peaceful, loud demonstration. Millions of others must feel the same way; they just don’t know what to do. Let’s take the lead and make this the start!

When: 4pm Thursday, September 25!
Where: Southern end of Bowling Green Park, in the plaza area
What to bring: Banners, noisemakers, signs, leaflets, etc.
Why: To say we won’t pay for the Wall Street bailout
Who: Everyone!

Your rights in New York

bag search on the subwayHaving people visit from out of town is a reminder of what inconveniences & impositions we get used to living in New York. Aside from the random convergence of police cars in downtown & midtown to practice, definitely one of the most unnerving is the randomly asserted right to search your “large backpacks and packages” on the subway. Somehow, the knowledge that this search is not exactly mandatory, courtesy of the Fourth Amendment (that whole “search and seizure” thing), and therefore can be refused, makes me feel better. So as a public service to New Yorkers, here’s what you can do if you’re not interested in your bag being searched:

If you choose to walk through a random search area and are stopped, you may refuse to be searched. In fact, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that you are free to “turn around and leave” any subway system where police are conducting random searches.Calmly and clearly say “Officer, I do not consent to any searches. I’m going to exit the station.”Then immediately exit the station — and do not return through the same entrance.  

Thank Flex Your Rights’ Citizen’s Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches for this information, and this handy (if somewhat alarming) flyer.More on how to expand your First Amendment rights in New York City soon…