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Victorious Factory Workers Visit Buffalo

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-820399.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Workers from the victorious sit-in at a Chicago window factory will be in Buffalo Thursday night. The Coalition for Economic Justice is hosting the group for a forum on "resistance and recovery to fix the economy." The workers will tell their story of the six day sit in that captured the attention of the nation in December.

When equipment started disappearing from the shop at Republic Windows and Doors, Ronald Bender knew company owners probably weren't redecorating. That's when Bender says the 260 factory workers decided to band together. Bender is the union steward for UE Local 1110 in Chicago. So, he knew how effective a united effort could be. But what he didn't expect was that soon people from around the country would be watching their fight and cheering them on. But timing is everything. And at that moment, Bank of America, the company's beneficiary, was already taking plenty of heat for misusing taxpayer bailout dollars. Bender says the nation quickly echoed their outrage.

Public attention helped the workers win a settlement from the bank. But Bender and other union workers want to make sure the spotlight stays on irresponsible banks and corporations. A group of the sit-in strikers is touring a dozen cities, to tell their story and drum up support for workers' rights. They will be in Buffalo tonight speaking with members of the local Coalition for Economic Justice. Allison Duwe is with the Coalition. She says the workers probably could have been successful even without the attention from the bailout. But she says the economy created a climate that made their actions easy for so many to support.

Wednesday, lawmakers finally reached agreement on a stimulus plan they claim will help protect the jobs of workers. But for now, former Republic Windows and Doors worker Ron Bender is still unemployed. The restructuring plan won by the union is not yet a done deal. Bender says no matter what happens this was a victory for workers everywhere.

Bender and some of the other workers who staged the sit-in will speak at a public forum tonight in Buffalo. It's at the Lafayette Presbyterian Church on Elmwood from 5:30 - 7pm.