Republic workers explain their fight

February 11, 2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Jobs with Justice here hosted an awesome event February 6 in support of Republic Windows & Doors workers who won a victory after occupying their factory in Chicago.

Some Republic workers are currently traveling through the U.S. to talk to people about what they accomplished, as well as to offer encouragement to others in similar situations.

In Rhode Island, that's the Colibri jewelry workers, who arrived at their workplace the morning of January 14 to find that the company had suddenly shut down, without any warning. Two hundred eighty employees were out of work, left with no income or health insurance.

According to Maria, who would have celebrated her 12th year at Colibri on February 6, all the bosses received severance pay, while the rank and file were left with nothing. After working from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for all those years, Maria felt like she had been treated like an animal. She along with other the women from Colibri said they would be fighting this injustice for their children.

A speaker from Republic encouraged people to build the labor movement and make companies accountable for their actions by acts of resistance. Another speaker emphasized how the period right now is time where these acts of militancy can occur. He said that various laws have been passed to erode the the power of the labor movement, and that we have to fight for the Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier to organize.

Throughout the meeting, the main point that resonated among the speakers was that workers have power--they can organize and work together. Thus, during the occupation of Republic, there was a division of labor, with one group serving as guards in the building to protect the occupation, another group working as food servers, and a third group working as cleaners.

From the floor, John Prince from Direct Action for Rights & Equality said that not only do we have to fight for our jobs, but we must fight for our homes, too. Other organizations represented at the meeting were Fuerza Laboral (Worker's Power), English for Action, the Olneyville Neighborhood Association and the International Socialist Organization.

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