Famed factory workers speak in Iowa City - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Famed factory workers speak in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - It began with Bank of America refusing to extend Republic Windows and Doors' line of credit. In turn, Republic told its Chicago plant workers they'd be out of a job in three days.

Republic worker Rocio Perez remembers the days leading up to the plant closing. She watched the company's managers load assembly line machines into trailers after work hours. "The most absurd thing is when we asked why they were selling the machines in the night, and they said they were selling the machines to pay the workers," Perez told us.

Perez and another worker, Ricky Maclin, were in Iowa City Tuesday night, to tell people what happened in Chicago.

Maclin remembers that he came to work one morning, and discovered an entire line of equipment was gone. "That particular line consisted of maybe 35 to 40 people."

As the machines disappeared, Maclin says it became clear their jobs would follow. Republic workers, soon to be left without pay, benefits, or health insurance, staged an occupation of the plant. With family members, they went inside, and locked the doors.

"We were losing our jobs, and to be part of a six-day and five-night occupation of the factory was really satisfying," Perez said, "although it was really sad seeing our kids sleeping on the floors, and having to wait for food."

Republic workers began to receive support from line workers across the globe, and eventually, world leaders. "What made our situation unique, is that we fought back. We just decided that we weren't going to just lay down and take that," Maclin said.

After days of negotiating, Bank of America came to an agreement, paying the workers what they were owed by law. Soon after, Maclin says a California-based company purchased the plant, and contracted all of its former employees to return to work.

"We still have a lot of workers that aren't back at work, but at least we have something that millions of other unemployed workers don't have, and that's at least a guarantee of a job."

The experience taught him an important lesson: "Without a struggle, there is no victory."

Some workers are already back in the shop. Maclin hopes to return in the next week or so.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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