Plant Workers Fight Bain On Job Outsourcing

William Lineberry

Mitt Romney greets supporters in Janesville, WI on June 18th. That day, workers from the Sensata plant in nearby Freeport, IL held a protest urging Romney to visit Freeport to learn how plans to outsource jobs would adversely affect the community. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A man­u­fac­tur­ing and devel­op­ing plant in Freeport, Ill., which is owned by Bain Cap­i­tal, the pri­vate equi­ty firm Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney co-found­ed and was CEO of until 1999, is plan­ning on out­sourc­ing 150 full-time posi­tions to China. 

Many work­ers at the Sen­sa­ta Tech­nolo­gies plant — along with com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers, reli­gious lead­ers and labor lead­ers from around the state — have began speak­ing out, urg­ing the com­pa­ny to reconsider.

This area is hurt­ing already,” George Ben­son, pres­i­dent of the Freeport chap­ter of the NAACP, said. The unem­ploy­ment rate is already above the state aver­age. This is just a move by some rich folks to make more mon­ey, to become rich­er. They are send­ing these expe­ri­enced work­ers’ jobs over­seas just for mon­ey. They just keep lin­ing their pock­ets. This just isn’t in Freeport, this is all over. We have to stand against it. It’s a big fight. But it’s an impor­tant fight worth being in.”

The employ­ees — who man­u­fac­ture sen­sors that are sold to auto man­u­fac­tures — were told in ear­ly 2011 that the plant would be clos­ing in Decem­ber 2012. They are cur­rent­ly train­ing their Chi­nese replace­ments, who have been flown in by Bain to the Illi­nois plant. This just adds insult to injury,” said Cheryl Ran­deck­er, a Sen­sa­ta employ­ee. They’re going to be here three months and they’re not going to leave know­ing every­thing they need to know.”

Last week, work­ers from the Sen­sa­ta plant staged a protest out­side of the plant against the out­sourc­ing. Many of the work­ers also staged a protest on June 18 where they urged Rom­ney, who was in near­by Wis­con­sin, to come to Freeport and learn how the out­sourc­ing would adverse­ly affect the com­mu­ni­ty. Work­ers from the plant are cur­rent­ly writ­ing Rom­ney a let­ter in which they ask him to inter­vene and stop the out­sourc­ing of their jobs. The work­ers are plan­ning an action for July 8 that will take place at the plant. No fur­ther men­tion of what the action would entail was men­tioned, but the work­ers have request­ed that mul­ti­ple labor and com­mu­ni­ty coali­tions from around the state come in solidarity.

Though Rom­mey hasn’t worked for Bain in more than a decade, the work­ers and their sup­port­ers say that he still is mak­ing mon­ey from the pri­vate equi­ty firm that is out­sourc­ing the Sen­sa­ta jobs. 

We’ve seen how destruc­tive out­sourc­ing is to com­mu­ni­ties,” Carl Rosen, pres­i­dent of the west­ern region of the Unit­ed Elec­tric union, said in a con­fer­ence call. When cor­po­ra­tions pick up and leave they leave areas like Freeport hurt­ing. When the jobs end up in Chi­na, often times the work­ers there are exploit­ed very bad­ly. It (out­sourc­ing) is a race to the bot­tom. Rom­ney says he wants to save small town Amer­i­ca, but yet a com­pa­ny he helped found is destroy­ing a small town in Amer­i­ca and he’s going to make mon­ey off of it. These work­ers and their fam­i­lies are being dropped on the street so Bain Cap­i­tal and Rom­ney can make a few more dollars.”

Ran­deck­er, an employ­ee of Sen­sa­ta for 33 years and one of the key orga­niz­ers against the out­sourc­ing, said her life has been turned upside down.

Every­thing has changed,” Ran­deck­er said. I’m five months away from unem­ploy­ment. I’m a sin­gle par­ent with a daugh­ter. I don’t wor­ry about myself as much as I do her now. I was able to send her to a good four-year uni­ver­si­ty because I had a good job. After I found out I was going to lose my job, I had to tell her I couldn’t afford to pay for her school any­more. She had to move back home and enroll in a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege in Freeport because I wasn’t going to be able to afford her school with­out my job.”

Accord­ing to the employ­ees and com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers speak­ing dur­ing the con­fer­ence call, Sen­sa­ta report­ed $2 bil­lion net rev­enue last year. How can they make so much mon­ey, and still want to cut costs by out­sourc­ing jobs like the ones in Freeport?” Rosen asks.

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