BILL MOYERS: He was in the thick of things recently when local factory workers stood up to a deadbeat employer. The company they worked for, Republic Windows and Doors, suddenly announced it was closing up shop and leaving town. By law, Republic's unionized employees were entitled to 60 days notice and some parting benefits. Instead, the owners gave them three days notice and cut off their health insurance. The angry workers took over their factory. Backed by their union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine workers of America or U.E., they called it a "peaceful occupation" and announced they wouldn't budge until the company did right by them.
REPORTER #1: Developing right now, laid-off workers occupying a Chicago factory-
REPORTER #2: Hundreds of workers are barricaded in a business on Chicago's-
BILL MOYERS: The story caught the nation's attention...
REPUBLIC WINDOWS AND DOORS EMPLOYEE: We've been here since yesterday and we aren't going anywhere. We are committed to this!
BILL MOYERS: As workers stood firm inside the factory, James Thindwa helped rally supporters to raise a ruckus outside.
CROWD: The workers united will never be defeated!
JAMES THINDWA: We were going to use Republic Windows as an example. That if you're thinking about walking away from workers, you know, walking away from your obligation to pay workers wages and their benefits, and that you're going to have a fight on your hands. That we're going to bring the entire community- the wrath of the community was going to come and express itself. Chicago is a union town. And we like to say that here. And so we drew a line in the sand and said- it was snowing outside, we drew a line in the snow, and said that you can't do this in Chicago.
BILL MOYERS: Factory owners blamed the closure on declining home construction. They said they couldn't meet the payroll or pay their bills, because Bank of America had canceled the company's line of credit.
CROWD: Se, se puede!
BILL MOYERS: So organizers took on the bank. It had just received 25 billion dollars in federal bailout money- money meant to help banks do the very kind of lending companies like Republic Windows and Doors needed.. . . .
JAMES THINDWA: And so this became a very, very powerful campaign, politically, emotionally. And I think Bank of America wisely decided that this was not a fight that they were going to win.
CROWD: Yes, we did! Yes, we did!
BILL MOYERS: After five days of public pressure, Bank of America caved. It came up with a cash loan to pay the workers what they were owed.
It's a great story. You can find the entire transcript here.