Monday, December 08, 2008

Should Latino/a Workers Occupy a New Republic (Windows and Doors)?

A group of mostly Latino/a workers, who were laid off from a window factory in Chicago, have decided to stage an occupation of the factory rather than be turned out. You can read about this group of workers and the national attention they are bringing to the worries of ordinary working people here.

It seems that the workers feel they were not given full consideration of federal law before being laid off and are asking the owners of the factory, who claim they are broke, to give them the entire severance and vacation pay they are due. The workers claim that they will stay until Christmas, if need be.

The union to which the workers belong claims that they are simply engaging in an action that goes back to the 1930s when American workers would nonviolently occupy factories to pressure owners with their demands.

The occupation by the Republic Windows and Doors workers reminds me of the factory take overs in Argentina after the 2001 economic crisis. There, many factory owners also went bankrupt and simply left town, leaving the workers with little or no notice of a shutdown. Instead of simply accepting defeat, the workers of many of these factories went back to work and occupied facilities. They started to run the factories on their own, creating their own forms of management and production. Workers began to develop their own theories of a non-hierarchal work place, and of democratic decision making on the shop floor, that started to spread throughout the country. Soon, neighborhood assemblies were forming, in which people could talk about their reactions to economic crisis, and plan collective action that was independent from the state institutions and political parties. Some of these citizen activists called this kind of grassroots democracy horizontalism. You can read more about this movement here and also here.

The Republic workers aren't currently thinking of running the factory on their own. They simply want to get what is due to them. But wouldn't it be a great example if ordinary workers could take production matters into their own hands and demonstrate how the economy really works because of them and not because of the generosity of capital lending financial institutions which are pocketing so much of the taxpayer bailouts?

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At 9:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thirty years of marginalizing bottom-up philosophy prevent any Argentinian equivalent in America. We've been taught and trained that 'grassroots' requires leaders and capital, and that cooperative efforts are inherently flawed and doomed.
And therefore ignored when successful.


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