Gov. Suspends State Business With Bank of America

No resolution in first day of talks following 4-day sit in at North Side factory

Roughly 200 employees of a shuttered Chicago factory who refuse to leave their jobs continued getting some high-profile help Monday, but discussions to end the four-day sit-in ended without resolution.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and State Treasurer Alexi Gianoulias entered talks with Republic Windows & Doors and its prime lender, Bank of America, hoping to end the standoff that began Friday. 

While that didn't happen, Gutierrez said the meeting went very well and had a tone of reconciliation.

"It is clear to me that the moment of finger-pointing between Republic's owners and the Bank is being set aside in order to find just solutions for the claims of the workers," Gutierrez said.

Talks will resume Tuesday morning.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he believed that if Republic wouldn't do business in that facility, at 1333 N. Hickory Ave., then someone else should, using Republic's workers.

"We're going to do everything possible here in Illinois to side with these workers," Blagojevich said.

Stating that the state has "hundreds of millions of dollars" in dealings with the bank, Blagojevich threatened Bank of America with future state business unless the lender stepped up its assistance.

"We have contacted all of our agencies across state government, and as of now, every agency has been ordered to suspend doing any business with the Bank of America," Blagojevich said. "The Bank of America received $25 billion in taxpayer money as part of the financial bailout. This is exactly and precisely the kind of thing that isn't right when, on the one hand, powerful special interests get the help of taxpayer money to bail them out -- the banks -- and yet the purpose of that money was supposed to be to provide a line of credit to businesses like this, to keep workers working, and keep people employed. And yet the Bank of America has yet to step up and say that they're going to be helpful to this company and keep these workers working."

That sentiment was shared by Sen. Dick Durbin.

"Taxpayer's dollars, going into these big banks, are not for dividends, they're not for executive salaries. They're for loans and credit for businesses just like Republic," Durbin said.

The lender insists it is doing nothing wrong.

"As a creditor of the company, we continue to honor all of our agreements," the bank said in a statement. "We have provided the maximum amount of funding we can under the terms of our agreement. When a company faces such a dire situation, its lender is not empowered to direct the company's management how to manage its affairs."

This weekend, while continuing to put together an administration solve the worldwide economic crisis, President-elect Barack Obama voiced support over the weekend for the laid-off workers.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rep. Jan Schakowsky also met with workers Sunday to try to help broker some kind of compromise between the workers and their employer.

Despite the strong words leveraged against Bank of America, Republic's management is also facing criticism, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she's investigating the closure of the plant and is concerned with the company's actions.

Chicago aldermen vowed to hold City Council hearings and explore "every legal option" to force Republic to re-pay $9.3 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) funds used to build the Goose Island plant now occupied by laid-off workers.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said he was incensed to learn that Republic executives have formed a limited liability corporation that has purchased a similar plant in western Iowa, where labor is cheaper, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.  The TIF subsidy was paid in 2002 and 2003.

Blagojevich also said the state is seeking an injunction by a federal judge to assure that the provisions of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) are followed so that the employees will have the opportunities and benefits to which they're entitled under federal law.

The Illinois WARN Act, signed by Blagojevich in 2004, requires employers to give 60 days notice to employees and their unions, the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Bureau of Workforce Development and the Illinois Department of Labor, of a plant closing or mass layoff.

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