This story gets deeper by the day, but only a few outlets are trying to paint a comprehensive picture. Thankfully, history will contain these alternative readings. The leading narrative describes the worker' sit-as a great historical moment in labor activism. I agree with that account. The rest of the dominant story, however, requires greater scrutiny and revision. While most accounts portray the workers' activism and political protests as a defeat of "greedy" banks, a closer look shows that this angle reflects fantasy more than reality.
Yesterday, I posted an essay that examines Republic Windows and Doors. To date, the company has been curiously missing from most accounts of the sit-in, even though it, not Bank of America, violated the workers' rights secured by state and federal law. While the company has basically escaped critical analysis, it is probably the most culpable player involved.
Although progressives have used this moment to vent anger over the bailout and banks, Republic Windows recently completed a series of transactions in which it shut down its Chicago factory, discarded its Chicago labor without providing the statutorily required notice, and purchased and combined its operations with a company located in Iowa where it can now process the same orders but pay workers less money. But due to misdirected progressive anger and a completely uncritical news media, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase have provided financing to the company so it can complete these transactions and escape liability under labor law.
The Bailout No One Wants to Discuss
If that weren't already enough irony, it also turns out that Republic Windows and Doors, like Bank of America, received an enormous governmental subsidy, sometimes described as a "bailout." In 2002 and 2003, the company received $9.3 million from the Chicago to construct a new factory. Prior to the building project, the company threatened to leave the city, arguing that it had outgrown its space. Chicago provided the money using a development tool known as "Tax Increment Financing" (or TIF). Under a TIF setup, cities invest in development projects under the theory that the investments will generate higher tax revenue, as improvements to blighted areas increase property values. Chicago (and other cities) has created several TIF districts that fund various projects, hoping to profit from the development activity through future taxation. Now that Republic Windows and Doors has fled the scene, the whole theory behind the subsidy has evaporated. Some local politicians are trying to figure out how to recoup the city's subsidy. Good luck.
Republic Windows and Doors took $9.6 million from the City of Chicago, and now two banks have provided nearly $2 million to pay the company's debt to its employees. But the only villain in this story remains Bank of America. What interests are served by not telling a fuller story that includes scrutiny of this company? Given Chicago's deep history of political corruption, news media should at least try to determine whether any powerful individuals helped the owners of the company vanish from Chicago overnight, set up shop in another state, discard its workers, escape negative media attention, and avoid liability under state and federal law.
Some websites report that Chicago Monarch (sorry - I mean "Mayor") Richard Daley secured TIF funding for the company. According to a report by a Chicago NBC affiliate, Daley backed financing after previously expressing deep disagreement with the concept of TIF investments altogether. Also, his brother William Daley chairs the JP Morgan Midwest regional offices. Yesterday, JP Morgan extended $400,000 to the company for the purpose of paying the workers. And Governor Blagojevich abruptly banned Bank of America from transacting business with the State of Illinois one day prior to his arrest for trying to sell Obama's vacated Senate seat. Apparently, the bank gave in to the governor's pressure. All of these moves benefit the company primarily and the workers incidentally. Fox Mulder keeps coming to mind with this story: "Trust No One."
Related Readings on Dissenting Justice:
* MADE IN IOWA: Did Company in Chicago Sit-In Illegally Discard Its Workers and Quietly Relocate While Liberals Forced BOA to Pay for the Shady Scheme?
* Laid-Off Republic Windows and Doors Workers: Pawns in Political Football