CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp, accused of insensitivity to the plight of laid-off employees occupying a shuttered Chicago window manufacturing factory, said on Tuesday it would make a loan to the company so it can pay the workers.
“We have reached out and made the offer,” Bank of America spokeswoman Julie Westerman said. “The reason we’re doing it is because the company did not pay its employees and we’re trying to do the right thing for the workers.”
However the situation was far from resolved at Republic Windows & Doors, as some 250 workers waited for their union and the company to negotiate a settlement and the sides appeared far apart, Westerman said.
“There is an offer on the table but no settlement at this point,” Republic spokesman Spencer Maus said.
The worker sit-in that began on Friday has become a symbol of Main Street resentment of the federal bailout of Wall Street banks, which Bank of America has tapped for $15 billion.
Several politicians and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who took up the workers’ cause, cited the window factory as an example of the failure of the federal bailout of Wall Street to loosen up credit for businesses.
Over the weekend, President-elect Barack Obama said the workers were “absolutely right” in asking for their pay and said the federal bailout should be aimed at boosting loan activity.
The workers who remained at the factory, most of them members of an electrical workers union, have demanded Republic pay them for the legally mandated 60-day notice period for a plant closing, plus accrued vacation pay. They were given just three days notice before Friday’s closing, and decided to camp out at the plant.
Republic issued a statement saying it had planned to shut down gradually, but said Bank of America insisted on a quicker shutdown.
The company had exhausted its line of credit, the bank’s Westerman said, but the bank was now willing to negotiate an additional loan.
The amount of the loan has not been discussed, she said, and would depend on negotiations on how much the workers are owed and the company’s collateral. Earlier, a union spokesman put the figure at about $3,500 per worker, though workers were hoping the plant might be reopened.
Editing by Michael Conlon and Tim Dobbyn