01/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Republic Workers Calmed Racial Tensions Before Sit-In

A sit-in by laid-off employees of a Chicago window company this month sparked international attention. Republic Windows and Doors had closed with only a few days' notice and blamed a bank that had received billions of federal bailout dollars. The employees were members of a union, the United Electrical Workers. They fought for a severance payment and became symbols for hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers facing layoffs. Their efforts required overcoming long-standing racial tensions in their ranks.

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