Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Demanding worker justice at Fillip Co.

Chicago - It's a warm, sunny March day. On a deserted street of windowless factories, suddenly a boisterous protest pops into view. A picketline is circling in front of Fillip Metal Cabinet Co., maker of kitchen cabinets and office files.

"Three weeks ago the company told us they were selling the factory and letting go all the workers," explained Emma Moreno, Teamsters Local 743 union representative and a worker at the factory. "The company is making money with the sale but can't give us any severance pay. Workers made this company profitable. Some have worked here forty years and get nothing."

At its peak Fillip Co. employed over 100 workers and is typical of many small manufacturing companies throughout Chicago. After many layoffs only 15 production workers remain. Fillip Co. was sold and its former owner will land on his feet with the new company. Some of the workers will go, the rest will be dumped on the street.

The workers are demanding severance pay and respecting seniority rights for any workers transferred to the new company.

"He (former owner Chris Fillip) says he hasn't got any money," said Moreno. But the workers aren't buying it. "He's got bills to pay. Well, so do we," said Bob Maldonado, a production worker. "I hope to get something for my 27 years of working at this place.

The workers were joined by strong showing of solidarity from Chicago Jobs with Justice, IBEW, religious activists and workers from the former Republic Windows and Doors (represented by the United Electrical Workers Union) who conducted a six-day sit-in in December to win severance pay and benefits.

"This economy is too difficult not to fight for our rights," said Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110. "Any struggle we fight, we have to maintain our unity."

"We are here today in search of justice, declared James Thindwa, director of Chicago Jobs with Justice. "We are putting companies on notice that we will fight whenever and wherever there is an injustice like this. If we stick together we can win."


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