Sensata Workers File NLRB Charges; Update: Jesse Jackson Arrested at Solidarity Protest

Sarah Cobarrubias

Sensata workers rallied last month at the Bainport camp. Photo via Bainport
Update Octo­ber 24, 10:05 p.m.: 14 pro­test­ers were arrest­ed this after­noon at Bain-owned Sen­sa­ta Tech­nolo­gies after march­ing onto plant prop­er­ty to demand a meet­ing with the plant’s man­ag­er. The arrestees includ­ed Rev. Jesse Jack­son, Bish­op Tavis Grant, Rock­ford Alder­man Vic­to­ry Bell, three Sen­sa­ta work­ers, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Unit­ed Auto Work­ers, Unit­ed Steel­work­ers and SEIU Health­care Illi­nois. Today’s arrests brings the total count to 23.This morn­ing, work­ers filed charges with the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board alleg­ing unfair labor prac­tices at Sen­sa­ta Tech­nolo­gies, a car-sen­sor man­u­fac­tur­er owned by Bain Cap­i­tal (which Mitt Rom­ney found­ed). The charges come after the Freeport, Ill. com­pa­ny threat­ened to close the plant imme­di­ate­ly – two months ahead of sched­ule – if employ­ees con­tin­ued to ral­ly against the out­sourc­ing of their jobs to China.
The work­ers filed two charges with the NLRB: one over Sen­sa­ta’s threat to shut the plant down ear­ly, the oth­er accus­ing the com­pa­ny of “increas­ing secu­ri­ty and announc­ing a new pol­i­cy, or a pre­vi­ous­ly unen­forced pol­i­cy, pro­hibit­ing off-duty employ­ees from enter­ing work areas at non-work times, in response to and in retal­i­a­tion for employ­ees engag­ing in pro­tect­ed con­cert­ed activ­i­ty.”The employ­ees received the shut-down threat Tues­day via the Freeport Police – Sen­sa­ta man­age­ment asked the police to relay the mes­sage rather than com­mu­ni­cate with work­ers direct­ly. The work­ers were told that the plant, which is sched­uled to close its doors this Decem­ber after 170 jobs and equip­ment are shipped to the new plant in Chi­na, would be shut down ear­ly if protests con­tin­ue. Demon­stra­tors, some of whom have worked there more than 40 years and will receive only 26 weeks of sev­er­ance pay, were incensed. In a press release from orga­niz­ers at Bain­port (the coun­ty fair­grounds across the street from Sen­sa­ta that has been con­vert­ed into a protest camp), Joanne Pen­nis­ton says:Not only are they ship­ping our jobs to Chi­na, they are also try­ing to take away our rights as Amer­i­can work­ers. We are not going to be intim­i­dat­ed. We are going to stand up for our rights and our jobs.This is a not-so-sur­pris­ing move for the Freeport com­pa­ny, which shut down oper­a­tions over the week­end to sti­fle ris­ing protests. Last week, six pro­test­ers were arrest­ed on com­pa­ny grounds for a sit-in protest­ing the plant man­ager’s refusal to meet with them, and three more work­ers were arrest­ed a week pri­or for block­ing the path of trucks remov­ing equip­ment from the plant for ship­ment to Chi­na. But Sensata’s con­tin­ued threats of arrest and clo­sure haven’t slowed the demon­stra­tors. This after­noon at 4 p.m., at least a dozen activists—including Rev­erend Jesse Jack­son, three Sen­sa­ta work­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Unit­ed Steel­work­ers, UAW, SEIU and the NAACP—were sched­uled to hold a march from Bain­port to the plant if they’re still denied a meet­ing with the plant man­ag­er.Along with call­ing for a meet­ing, the pro­test­ers have plead­ed with Mitt Rom­ney to help save their jobs. But Rom­ney has refused to help or even meet with the pro­test­ers. Bain­port orga­niz­ers have a the­o­ry as to why:Not only does Rom­ney stand to prof­it from the out­sourc­ing of these jobs through the stock he still owns in the com­pa­ny, his 2011 tax returns show that he got a huge tax break by mov­ing Sen­sa­ta stock to a char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tion he controls—and that he con­tin­ues to prof­it from Bain’s off­shore hold­ings and tax avoid­ance strate­gies.Of course, Romney’s refusal to inter­vene doesn’t fall in line with his promis­es to, if elect­ed, cre­ate 12 mil­lion jobs by, among oth­er things, “crack­ing down on Chi­na.”
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