Through A Glass, Darkly

If you’ve been following the latest developments at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago, and how the employees have decided to occupy their place of employment in protest, you as an ex-Hellerite can definitely empathize with these folks.

The workers at Republic Windows were basically told that the company was losing money, the banks had cut-off the lines of credit, and they were being let go without the 60-day WARN Act notice, without accrued vacation, etc.  Sound familiar?

It appears that this behavior among firms and the banks that lend them money is not unusual: screw the loyal employees, don’t worry about federal and state labor laws, pay off the lines of credit and “we’re done.” 

The workers at Republic Windows have occupied the factory here in Chicago (your cruise director has been living in the City of Broad Shoulders for four years now . . . long story) and seem to have quite a bit of support from friends, family and politicians.  Several of the protest signs have mentioned how Bank of America – which provided Republic’s line of credit – received at least $25 billion as part of a recent “bail out” but can’t seem fit to allow the firm’s owners pay the employees what is rightfully theirs.

We’ve been hearing the same tired line of nonsense from Heller’s Dissolution Committee, Bank of America, and Citibank now since October.  The Dissolution Committee passes the buck to the banks continuously and says “they won’t let us” when it comes to paying employees.  The banks remain silent and play with not only the monies coming in but the day-to-day survival of ex-Hellerites.

While it is a bit late for a sit-in at Heller – and one would be difficult given the various locations – we can finally decide to stop taking the information about “what can and cant’ be paid” at face value.  How is it that these banks can be handed billions of dollars and yet be allowed to assist Heller in violating federal and state laws?  My thinking is that authorizing the payment of what is due ex-Heller employees would put money back in the economy, allow people to make purchases, etc.  Am I the only one seeing this? Or do I look “through a glass, darkly” as the saying goes, and my perception of reality is somewhat imperfect?

As a current Citibank customer, I’ve already registered my complaints and if I weren’t currently unemployed, I would refinance my mortgage with CitiMortgage and pull money from all my accounts (IRA, CDs, Checking, etc.) immediately.  As has been said in past posts, if you are a Bank of America or Citibank customer you might want to contact them.

Some have stated that contacting the banks will not do much good since in their eyes you are “small fish” and you probably can’t contact those handling Heller’s credit lines directly.  Or can you?

Heller Drone has come across the email addresses of those at BofA and Citibank  involved with Heller’s lines of credit.  I will post these and you can decide to do with them what you will.

Over and out

Heller Drone
Cruise Director


16 Responses to “Through A Glass, Darkly”

  1. 1 Former HE Assoc 7 December 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Nice job on the email addresses. I will be sure to email them and let them know I’ll be doing business elsewhere in the future. Thanks again, Heller Drone.

  2. 2 ExpostFacto 8 December 2008 at 3:01 am

    You know the end of Trading Places, when Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy completely ruin the brothers Duke, ostensibly for the sake of a $1 bet?

    In my day dreams I am doing this to every banker and ex-shareholder who thought only of themselves when making decisions that lead to the current upheaval in so many lives.

    (OK, really I’m not wasting my imagination on such worthless endeavors, but I do honestly wonder how certain people feel about what they’ve done to so many others. Not good, I hope.)

  3. 3 ChiTown 9 December 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Welcome to Chicago! Puttin’ Governor’s Away Since The Beginning of Time™!

  4. 4 Former Associate 9 December 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Looks like BofA is going to let the window employees get paid. How about us?

  5. 5 Former Associate 9 December 2008 at 5:41 pm

    If anyone has any contacts in the media, this may be the best time to have our story out there. If BofA authorized the same payment for those people, why should the over 600 employees at Heller be treated any differently?

  6. 6 anon2 9 December 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Somebody needs to call The Governator – ASAP

  7. 7 Thomas MacEntee 9 December 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I have tried to make various media contacts – Jake Tapper at ABC News and some local Chicago columnists at the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times but no bites.

    If someone has any PR or media contacts, please try to get our info out there.

  8. 8 Jayne Loughry 9 December 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Folks, seize the moment and don’t put all your eggs in the chasing down press contacts basket. Most online news reports let you add an online comment. You all could be searching for every report on the Republic workers and use the comments section to tell the Heller story, i.e., how you’ve been screwed out of WARN severance and accrued vacation just like the Republic workers. Take action, be your own reporters, and get your story out there.

    Just a suggestion.

  9. 9 jeff 10 December 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I’m not sure I understand how the bank did anything wrong.
    The bank loans a company money. What the company does with that money has nothing to do with the bank.
    So, your company has a line of credit. From that line of credit, they pay employees. Your company then has to pay the bank back. It really is that simple.
    So what I don’t get is why you are blaming the bank when your employer is the one who didn’t pay you. The bank likely cut off your companies line of credit when they hit their credit limit and then didn’t pay the money back. That’s a management issue – as in the management of your company. I don’t understand how the bank did anything wrong.
    Here’s a real world example:
    I lend you $10 a month to start a business. You agree to pay me back $2 a month until you are square. You take the $10 a month and pay me regularly. Then, you stop paying me but I continue to give you $10 a month. After a while, I decide to stop loaning you $10 a month. As a result, you have $10 less a month so you decide that you aren’t going to pay your employees. So how am I responsible at all for that? You didn’t live up to your end of the bargain and then you broke the law by not paying your employee. That isn’t my fault at all. That’s YOUR fault.
    I’d love to understand this better, but as you can tell I’m having a bit of a hard time.


  10. 10 Former Associate 10 December 2008 at 7:10 pm

    I think the difference here is that Heller is owed money from its clients, but the banks have said “you have to pay us before you pay anyone else.” So, it’s not that the banks are refusing to lend additional money, it’s that they’re controlling how Heller uses the money that is coming in. Of course, Heller could have just sacked up and paid the money to its employees and then fought with the banks about having done it, but what fun would that have been.

  11. 11 answer to jeff 10 December 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Jeff, the answer to your question is that it is easy to blame the bank, because they are real big, they are not hiding like management, and they have what alot of us don’t have: money. It’s a time honored tradition you know. get with the program man.

  12. 12 anon2 10 December 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Another answer for Jeff,

    The Bank didn’t pull Heller’s line of credit because Heller didn’t pay the Bank. The Bank decided that Heller “wasn’t a partnership” anymore because of the number of shareholders that left. Apparently there is a bottom line number of shareholders required by the Bank, and after Fram, et al went to Covington, the Bank decided Heller “wasn’t a partnership” and called in their line of credit ASAP. Is this right? Even though Heller had hundreds of thousands of A/R coming in, the Bank decided the party was over. This could happen to any company anywhere in the U.S. The Banks have the potential to ruin any company it chooses. Mark my words, this is just the beginning of the end of American business.

  13. 13 Jayne Loughry 10 December 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Jeff, that Citi and BofA have now taken billions of taxpayer money does make one look at their obligations a bit differently. And an argument can be made that refusing to let Heller use accounts received to pay owed wages (the accrued vacation) makes the banks accessories to a crime (at least in California the willful failure to pay wages is a criminal offense).

    Putting those two points aside, I’m on your side, but maybe not for the same reasons. I think — and have always thought — the banks are a red herring. Blaming the banks is an easy way to take the focus and the heat off who’s really responsible for paying employees what they’re owed– the owner(s) of the business. The owners of Republic and the owners of Heller have done exactly the same thing in trying to weasel out of paying what they owe their employees and putting the blame on BofA. Undoubtedly, the owners of both Republic and Heller assumed the red herring would trick their employees into just walking away. Quite remarkably, the Republic employees cut through the crap: the finger pointing is irrelevant; all that matters is that they get their money.

    Heller folks, you are owed money by your former employer, i.e, the owners of Heller, the shareholders of Heller. It’s their responsibility to pay you. Whether they have to borrow from the banks or sell their second homes, they owe you and should pay you. Why on earth would you let them off the hook just because they whine about BofA?

    For those of you who still feel sympathy to those who’ve broken laws to avoid paying you, the good news is that they don’t have to sell their second homes to come up with the cash to pay you. All they have to do is collect ALL of Heller’s assets . . . not just enough accounts receivable to pay off the banks and, thus, cover their individual asses, but recovering ALL Heller assets, which includes shareholders paying back loans and/or distributions they took while Heller was going belly-up, and it includes getting fair value (not sweetheart deals) for all property they turned over to firms taking over Heller space, and most definitely it includes getting the tens of millions of dollars for the value of Heller business that shareholders took to new firms.

    That last one might sound wacky to you, but it’s the law folks, see Jewel v. Boxer. Actually, it’s also another point of similarity to what happened at Republic. Republic workers told reporters that in the last few weeks before they were laid-off, big pieces of machinery disappeared during the night. The Chicago papers have found out that the owners of Republic have been setting up a new window manufacturing business across the river in Iowa. Gee, I wonder where the Republic machinery went. I think it’s pretty easy to see the wrong in spending money to start a new business when you still owe the employees of the old business, and I think it’s even easier to see the wrong in taking valuable equipment from the old business to benefit the new business when you still owe the employees of the old business. That, folks, is exactly what the Heller shareholders have done, only they took valuable cases instead of equipment, and they went to places like Orrick instead of Iowa. In sum, they have the assets to pay what they owe you; they’d just rather use those assets for the benefit of their new firms and themselves.

    If the Heller shareholders and their dissolution committee stay in control, I don’t think they’ll ever go after all the assets. I suspect the landlord thinks the same thing, and that — I believe — is why the landlord filed the lawsuit. I also expect that the landlord(s) are about to take Heller into bankruptcy. And I also suspect the banks expect the same thing, and that — I believe — is why the banks would’ve emptied the Heller accounts today (as was reported in another post here).

    I’m sorry if mentioning the “b” word upsets some of you, but if I’m right about it being on the near horizon, then you folks are going to have to get your act together fast or else you’ll be adding the landlords and the bankruptcy trustee to your list of those who’ve screwed you over. For what little it might be worth, short of you all staging a sit-in, I believe a Heller bankruptcy is your best chance of ever seeing any of the money you’re owed.

  14. 14 Hellerclerk 10 December 2008 at 10:58 pm

    What if we all, whichever city we’re in, simultaneously walk into a BofA office with identical lists of demands?

  15. 15 Derner 11 December 2008 at 9:59 am

    I’d be willing to let any former shareholder work off the money they owe me. I have an incredibly messy apartment right now, and I’m willing to absolve $500.00 in owed funds for an hour’s work.

    Oh, and I’m forming my own company, so I could use someone to write up some agreements and contract templates I can use going forward. I’d knock $2000 off my WARN Act compensation right there.

    Get in touch with me, former shareholders. I’m sure we can work something out that will benefit me and allow you to sleep at night.

  16. 16 jeff 12 December 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the responses to all. I appreciate the lack of venom directed towards me.
    That said, I think there are some misunderstandings here about the relationship between BOA and Heller/Republic.
    The bank holds a note, signed by management, that states that they get payment first. Heller/Republics decision not to pay employee’s is just that – heller/republics decision. The agreement with BOA likely has a clause that states that the debt owed to the bank requires preferential payment. It IS against the law to withhold funds from employees who worked. But BOA isn’t withholding payment – your company is. I don’t buy this idea that BOA is telling Heller not to pay employees – quite the opposite. BOA has a contact, enforceable by law, that requires that they be paid. This contract likely represents a bigger liability than not paying the employees, hence Heller/republics decision not to pay employees. Sue your employers. Period. BOA has zero obligation to you as an employee of a company they had extended a line of credit to. BOA established a credit line. How the money gets spent is not their problem. Their concern is being paid back the money they are owed. I still don’t think this is a bank issue. This appears to be an employer issue, and one that is actionable.
    It’s a simple transaction for the bank – they agree to extend credit to a company, who in turn agrees to pay the money back with interest. End of involvement. Heller/Republic’s mismanagemet and horrible treatment of employees should be the focus, not BOA’s credit line. Irrespective of the bailout money, BOA’s obligation is to provide credit/loans/financial instruments. Heller/Republic’s obligation is to pay back the loans, pay their employees, and satisfy their debts. I think misdirecting your anger towards the banks is a mistake born of anger, which is understandable but misplaced.
    Have you folks talked to employment lawyers yet? They usually take the cases they feel have potential at no cost to you. If you haven’t, you should start looking into it – there may be a class large enough for a class action suit that would likely fill everyone’s pockets and make you all whole.
    Best of luck!

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