Management to Meet With Ousted Window Factory Workers

CHICAGO -- All Illinois state business with the Bank of America will be stopped immediately until the bank provides credit to a windows and door factory that fired 200 workers last week.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Monday the state's solidarity with the workers of the Republic Windows and Doors plant, who were laid off without being paid severance or vacation time that was due under union contracts.

The employees are staging a sit-in at the shuttered factory, occupying the building in eight-hour shifts of about 60 workers at a time.

The workers are scheduled to meet with union and bank officials, Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Monday. Their demonstration has drawn support from President-elect Barack Obama and others.

Gutierrez, a Chicago-area Democrat, said officials of the now-closed Republic Windows and Doors would meet with representatives of the workers' union, the United Electrical Workers, and of the bank that has canceled its financing of the company.

"We're very pleased to see all the support that's coming in from all around the country, including obviously President-elect Barack Obama," United Electrical Workers representative Mark Meinstein said.

Company representatives have not commented since the sit-in began on Friday, and have not responded to calls and e-mails.

Gutierrez said Republic officials had signed a waiver permitting the opening of its financial records at the meeting.

Republic Windows and Doors told the workers on Dec. 2 that they would be out of work by the end of the week.

Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers, said the company told the union that Bank of America had canceled its financing. The bank had said in a statement that it wasn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

"This thing is in the bank's hands right  now and ... we're really looking to the bank to do the right thing here, come to a positive resolution and make sure that the workers are paid the money they're owed," Meinstein told FOX News.

The announcement of the meeting comes after a wave of publicity about the sit-in and appearances by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Obama, who said Sunday that the company should honor its commitments to the 200 workers.

"The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they're absolutely right and understand that what's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy," Obama said at a news conference Sunday.

To their amazement, the workers have become a national symbol for thousands of employees laid off nationwide as the economy sours.

"We never expected this," said factory employee Melvin Maclin, vice president of the union local that represents the workers. "We expected to go to jail."

One of the factory's workers, Silvia Mazon, said in Spanish that she needs the money owed to her for an $1,800 monthly house payment. The 40-year-old Cicero resident said she has enough money saved to survive for one month.

"We're making history," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.