After the conclusion of negotiations Wednesday evening, the membership of Local 1110, more than 200 workers, met in the plant cafeteria to hear and consider the tentative settlement that had been worked out by UE negotiators over the past three days.
The settlement was approved by a unanimous vote.
'We Did It!'
Following the vote, the UE members, led by Local President Armando Robles, marched out of the plant, chanting “Yes, we did!” in English and Spanish.
Pres. Robles stepped to the microphones outside the front entrance to the plant, where a throng of reporters and cameras had been waiting. "The occupation is over," he announced. "We have achieved victory. We said we will not go until we got justice, and we have it."
UE Western Region President Carl Rosen, who led the union negotiating team, then described the negotiations, summarized the settlement agreement, and commented on the significance of the struggle and the workers' achievement.
Pay, Health Care, Vacation Pay
The settlement totals $1.75 million. It will provide the workers with:
- Eight weeks of pay they 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.
Third Party Fund
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.
As the Local 1110 leaders characterized the settlement, “We fought to make them pay what they owe us, and we won.”
UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley spoke on behalf of the National Union, describing the outcome of the occupation as “a victory for workers everywhere,” and as “an historic victory for America’s labor movement.”
Kingsley went on to call the settlement “a win for all working men and women who face uncertainty, unfairness and job loss in a troubled economy.”
The 'Window of Opportunity Fund'
Kingsley then announced the creation of a new foundation, dedicated to reopening the plant. It will be initiated with seed money from the UE national union and the thousands of dollars of donations to UE Local 1110's Solidarity Fund that have come in from across the country and around the world in just the past five days.
Melvin Maclin, vice president of Local 1110, announced the name of the foundation, which was chosen by the workers themselves: the Window of Opportunity Fund. Maclin said that the fund will be open to receive donations from all friends of the Republic workers and supporters of their struggle.
Rosen introduced U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, praising the congressman for his tireless work in behalf of the Republic workers and indispensible role in bringing about the settlement. Gutierrez spoke at some length, and then introduced David Rudis, Illinois state president for Bank of America. In a statement to reporters, Rep. Gutierrez said, "This money will only be used to pay the workers the benefits they are owed under the law, and it will not under any circumstance be used for corporate bonuses, luxury cars or any other perk for the owners of the plant."
The congressman was referring to the unsuccessful attempt by Republic's chief executive Richard Gillman to have the banks' loans also cover the lease of his cars -- a 2007 BMW 350xi and a 2002 Mercedes S500, as well as eight weeks of his salary at $225,000 a year.