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W. Chicago firm answers complaint
WinCup says workers weren't let go, they never were officially hired
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/27/2007 12:09 AM

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You can't be fired if you were never hired, WinCup Corp. officials said Wednesday in answer to a lawsuit brought by former workers at its West Chicago factory.

A lawsuit on behalf of more than 50 Latinos who worked at the factory claims they were unjustly fired because of assumptions about their legal employment status. The workers claim they were terminated without 60 days notice as required under federal law.

WinCup's motion to dismiss the suit says the company had just purchased the factory from Radnor Holdings Corp., which had fallen into bankruptcy.

When WinCup became the new owner, it required all the factory workers to fill out federal employee eligibility forms. Those forms require proof of citizenship or temporary or permanent resident status.

WinCup Executive Vice President Mark Jason said more than 100 workers couldn't provide that proof, so they never became WinCup employees. Jason said more than 100 other workers -- Latinos included -- did provide the proof and were hired.

"To this day, as we stated in our motion, we've said if these individuals produce valid documents, we would be willing to hire them," Jason said.

The workers don't want jobs at the factory anymore.

Tim Bell, executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative, organized a March demonstration outside the factory with the former workers. He said the workers fear retribution.

"They say, 'No, we don't want to go back there because of the way we've been treated. If we go back there, they're going to put a whip to our backs,' " Bell said.

Bell said he's not buying the argument that the workers weren't employees because they were doing the same work for the same pay as they'd always done when they were fired.

What the workers want now is two weeks severance pay for every year of service at the factory.

Jason said the former workers have received all they deserve thus far -- nothing.

"If somebody can't produce their documents," Jason said, "I can't understand why they'd be entitled to anything."