photo by Diane Krauthamer

photo by Diane Krauthamer

From Next Left Notes

A small group of anti-authoritarians visited 3 Bank of America locations on Wednesday. The actions were coordinated by the NYC Industrial Workers of the World as a show of solidarity with more than 200 sit-down strikers in Chicago.

The strikers, who are part of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, occupied their factory, Republic Windows & Doors, after being informed just days in advance that the factory would close. Concerned workers and community members around the country took part in solidarity actions to show their support for the Chicago workers.

Republic's closure was due to being cut off from loans by Bank of America, the company's main creditor, and the recipient of $25 million in bailout funds. On Dec 5th, the day the factory was slated for closure, the workers instead remained inside and demanded their legal right to severance and vacation pay.

The IWW's action was one of many actions that targeted Bank of America locations in NYC. Several other groups organized solidarity actions across the city, including the Young Democratic Socialists, Jobs with Justice, the Bail Out the People Movement, and the May 1st Coalition.

For the IWW's action, a group of around 15-20 demonstrators visited Bank of America branches on 2nd Ave & 4th St, Astor Place, and Union Square. They carried signs, handed out flyers, and chanted "You got bailed out; we got sold out." At their first two stops, the demonstrators went into the bank while handing out flyers and chanting, and then delivered a letter to the manager on duty. A member of the group would deliver the letter, explain the situation and the workers' demands, and express the IWW's concern for their fellow UE workers in Chicago.

The group arrived at the Union Square branch, the third and final stop, to find that management was already expecting them. When they arrived at the bank, a security guard stopped them near the entrance, and a manager came to the door. "The manager seemed like he was aware that actions were going to be happening that day," said John Cronan Jr., an IWW organizer.

After IWW organizer Mykke Holcomb presented the manager with the letter, he mumbled "No comment" and stood in silence for a moment before finally returning inside. "He seemed like he wanted to get us out of there as soon as possible," said Cronan. The group remained outside, chanted for about 10 more minutes, and handed out flyers to passersby while managers watched from inside.

Demonstrators at the event said they felt they achieved their main goal, which was to show solidarity with the Chicago workers. "I thought we sent a clear message to Bank of America that the Chicago workers were not alone," said Cronan.

"It was a show of solidarity, and we're hoping that message gets across to the Chicago workers," said Diane Krauthamer, an IWW organizer and filmmaker who produced a short film of the action. "The most important thing is that the workers in Chicago know that they're not alone."

Like the UE, the IWW is a democratic, rank and file union. Many wobblies see direct actions such as the sit-down strike as a necessary tool for empowering workers in these times of economic turmoil. "We hope that the spirit of Chicago spreads and inspires all workers facing lay offs and hardships to take action," said Holcomb.

Last night, the UE officially announced that the occupation had ended and that the workers had received all of their demands. This includes 8 weeks' severance pay, pay for unused sick and vacation time, and two months' health coverage.

The workers have also established the Window of Opportunity fund, which is dedicated to reopening the factory.

You can watch Diane Krauthamer's video of the action here: