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Parties to Meet over Chicago Factory Sit-In

USA Today Chicago - Judy Keen, Julie Appleby and Marilyn Adams

Apolinar Cabrera spent Sunday holed up inside the Republic Windows & Doors factory, joining a protest by dozens of workers  angered by the abrupt closure of the plant Friday that left hundreds  without jobs, severance pay or health insurance.

"We're going to stay here as long as it takes," says Cabrera, 44, who  has worked at the plant for 17 years. "I'm going to receive my money  that I earned. There's nothing that I want to take out of their (the  company's) pocket. I want what I earned."

The Republic window plant protest is one of the first such actions by  workers in the current recession, which the Labor Department said last  week has resulted in the loss of 1.9 million jobs since last December.

President-elect Barack Obama, commenting on the Republic protest  Sunday, said it's important to rebuild the nation's financial system  but also to ensure "the plans and programs we design aren't just  targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks but are designed to also  get money out the door to help people on Main Street."

With three days' notice, owners of the window factory told about 300  workers last week that the plant would close, blaming a loss of credit  with Bank of America, says Mark Meinster, international representative  of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

He says Republic should have given workers 60 days' notice under a  federal law called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification  Act (WARN). The law, however, allows some exceptions to the 60-day  rule, including one for "faltering companies" that may fear that a  layoff notice could affect their chances of getting capital or new  business.

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At least 200 workers have committed to one of three eight-hour shifts  during the sit-in, says Leah Fried, field organizer for the union.

They are patrolling the plant to ensure it's secure, doing clean-up  and shoveling snow. On Sunday, supporters — including Jesse Jackson —  stopped by, some dropping off food and other supplies. A single  Chicago Police Department squad car was in the parking lot.

Complaints and lawsuits about companies failing to give notice of  layoffs are on the rise, says attorney René Roupinian, a lawyer with Outten & Golden in New York.

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Cabrera says the turnout of workers and supporters at the factory  cheers him.

"I have house payments like everybody and all the bills," Cabrera  says. "It's really tough, but we've got a lot of hope. We've got a lot  of support right now."