Today workers at the Hartmarx factory in Des
Plaines had plenty of reasons to be thankful. After weeks of
uncertainty about the company's future -- coupled with an aggressive
effort to organize and apply political pressure to creditor Wells Fargo -- the 125-year-old ...
Today workers at the Hartmarx factory in Des Plaines had plenty of reasons to be thankful. After weeks of uncertainty about the company's future -- coupled with an aggressive effort to organize and apply political pressure to creditor Wells Fargo -- the 125-year-old suitmaker emerged from bankruptcy court last week with a new owner committed to keeping its 4,000 jobs here in America (including 1,000 in Illinois).That means that their jobs are staying put.
Those following the backstory of Hartmarx's bankruptcy proceedings know that despite having a bidder interested in salvaging the company, Wells Fargo initially had every intention of seeing the company's assets liquidated to get them off their books quickly. Due to the bank's status as a $25 billion bailout recipient, Hartmarx employees and their representatives at Workers United had some leverage in their fight to save the company. They also had some high-profile allies in Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Phil Hare, and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
"When the time came, you stood up," SEIU Illinois State Council President Tom Balanoff told Hartmarx workers at a rally this morning. "You said, they're not going to close our factory. You said, we're not going to let you put us on the street. You said, we're not going to let them do this to our children. You stood up and fought. And you know what, brothers and sisters? You won." Watch his remarks:
For Schakowsky, the win was personal. As we reported back in early May, the Evanston Democrat's great aunt worked for the company nearly a century ago when Hartmarx workers first won their bid to unionize. Schakowsky said today that this legacy lives on in the current workforce, which went toe-to-toe with one of the nation's largest banks and won. "It was because you stood together," she emphasized this morning. "You saved these jobs." Watch:
Hartmarx mechanic Sam Shalaby also spoke to his fellow workers and put their victory in perspective, noting that the real win is still having the ability "to feed our families."
In a short while, we'll be posting more footage from today's rally, including speeches from Hare and Giannoulias.
Update (4:36 PM): Rep. Jan Schakowsky wasn't the only politician to stroll through the Hartmarx plant today. Citing the state's 10.7 percent unemployment rate, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias called the workers "heroes" for fighting to keep good-paying jobs in Illinois:
And Rep. Phil Hare, who spent 13 years as a Hartmarx employee, told the crowd that helping to secure jobs for the company's 1,000 employees was his proudest accomplishment since joining the House of Representatives. Watch it:
Full disclosure: Workers United, which presents the Hartmarx workers, is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU Illinois State Council sponsors this website.