May 12, 2009

It's so heartening to see workers fight back against the amoral decisions of the big bankers. Here's hoping they get the outcome they want:

DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) ― Five hundred workers at the Hartmarx suit factory in northwest suburban Des Plaines have authorized a sit-in over the threat that the company's largest creditor may shut it down.

Employees want the largest creditor for the 130-year-old Chicago area company, Wells Fargo Bank, to help it reorganize instead of shutting it down. In the event that the factory closes or is liquidated, they will not leave.

As CBS 2's Susan Carlson reports, just months ago, the company formerly known as Hart, Schaffner & Marx, which has its factory at 1680 E. Touhy Ave. in Des Plaines, was best known for making the favorite suits of President Barack Obama. But that has changed.

Wells Fargo has received $25 billion in federal bailout money, and has the option of either selling the bankrupt Hartmarx to bidders or forcing the company to shut down. If that happened, the 600 workers at the factory would lose their jobs.

"We are all upset that, they should give us another chance to make sure that somebody comes in who actually wants to bid," said Workers United Local President Ruby Sims. "Take the bid. Let us work. We deserve to finish paying those bills, paying for our houses, taking care of our children."

"We will not leave the factories if they move and push to liquidate it and close down our jobs," said Midwest Workers United Treasurer Joe Costigan.

[...] Hartmarx could be following in the footsteps of another Chicago-based company that staged a sit-in to get financing last December.

Employees at Republic Windows & Doors employees refused to leave the company, and it worked. The sit-in at the factory at 1150 N. North Branch St. on Goose Island sparked international attention, and the company Serious Materials announced in March that they were purchasing Republic, rehiring all the workers, and plan to reopen within the next few months.

Hartmarx is hoping to have a similar positive outcome to keep their 600 employees – and 1,000 across the state – collecting their paychecks.

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