CHICAGO – Jubilant workers, cheering and chanting "Yes We Can," celebrated outside a Chicago factory after approving a $1.75 million agreement to end their six-day sit-in, a dispute that became a symbol of the plight of labor nationwide.
Republic Windows & Doors, union leaders and Bank of America reached the deal Wednesday night. It was not immediately clear when workers would leave the North Side factory.
About 200 of 240 laid-off workers began their sit-in last week after Republic gave them just three days' notice the plant was closing. They vowed to stay until they received assurances they would get severance and accrued vacation pay.
Each former Republic employee will get eight weeks' salary, all accrued vacation pay and two months' paid health care, said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who helped broker the deal. He said it works out to about $7,000 apiece.
Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said $1.75 million will go into an escrow account for the workers, $1.35 million of which came from Bank of America in the form of a loan to Republic.
"Although we are a lender with no obligation to pay Republic's employees or make additional loans to Republic, we agreed to extend an additional loan to be used exclusively to pay its employees," David Rudis, the bank's Illinois president, said in a statement.
New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. pledged $400,000 to use strictly for the protesting employees, Gutierrez said.
Officials with the United Electrical Workers union, which represents the workers, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press late Wednesday. They had estimated the total cost of vacation and severance owed employees to be $1.5 million.
Around 100 supporters of the workers gathered Wednesday in downtown Chicago where negotiators were meeting, some beating drums and others chanting: "They got bailed out. We got sold out."
"This money is not, under any circumstance, to be used for corporate bonuses, luxury cars or any other perk for the owners of the plant," Gutierrez said in a statement.
Lawmakers earlier had criticized Bank of America for cutting off funds to the plant after it exhausted its credit line even though the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank itself received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package.
The workers had argued that Republic violated federal law because employees were not given 60 days' notice that they were losing their jobs.
Republic officials did not return messages on Wednesday from The Associated Press. Messages left seeking further details from JPMorgan Chase were also not returned.
Rudis said Republic is "unable to operate profitably." Over the past two years, the factory lost $10 million while borrowing the maximum amount possible under its agreement with Bank of America, the company said.