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Six arrested at Sensata sit-in in Freeport

October 17, 2012

The six individuals arrested at the Sensata sit-in Oct. 17 celebrate their release from jail. (Photo courtesy of www.bainport.com)

Online Staff Report

FREEPORT, Ill. — Six community supporters were arrested during a sit-in at the Freeport Sensata Technologies plant Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The community members were occupying the plant’s lobby in protest of Bain’s decision to outsource 170 American jobs from its profitable Sensata plant in Freeport to China.

A video of the arrests is available here (police arrive at 21:00 mark).

Those arrested include JoAnn Matthews, the mother of Sensata worker Mary Jo Kerr; 82-year-old community supporter Paul Holz; and Kathy Hoyer, who worked at Sensata for two decades before being laid off earlier this year, and her son.

Last week, three community members — including the daughter of a Sensata worker — were arrested for blocking trucks removing equipment from the plant.

With so many hardworking Americans facing the loss of their jobs to outsourcing, we felt it was time to take a stand,” said Kathy Hoyer, a former Sensata employee who was arrested during the sit-in. “We can’t afford to let companies like Bain turn our communities into ghost towns. So, our message is clear: Freeport isn’t going down without a fight.”

Sensata has emerged as a flashpoint in the controversy over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ties to China this fall, with the candidates alluding to Romney’s investment in Sensata in the Oct. 16 presidential debate.

Sensata workers have pleaded publicly with Romney to help save their jobs from being outsourced to China. 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 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.

The Sensata workers tried to deliver a petition to the plant manager as part of their effort to win a full severance. Workers who have been at the plant for 20, 30 and even 40-plus years are getting 26 weeks of pay as a severance from Bain-owned Sensata.

Created in 2006, Sensata develops, manufactures, and sells sensors and controls for major auto manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors.

Workers at the plant have been training their Chinese replacements, who have been flown to Illinois by the company. The final layoffs are expected to be made in November. The plant employs 170.

Workers began an encampment, since named “Bainport,” Sept. 12 at Stephenson County Fairgrounds to protest Bain’s decision to ship their jobs to China and increase the pressure on former Bain co-founder/CEO Romney — who still profits directly from Sensata — to help save their jobs.

The workers plan to stay at the encampment until Romney agrees to help save their jobs, or, as stated in a release from the group, “until middle-class voters nationwide understand the dangers of a Romney economy for our country.”

Romney is a co-founder of Bain Capital, the private equity investment firm that created Sensata. According to SEC filings, Romney served as CEO of Bain Capital from its founding in 1984 until 2002. Romney, however, has repeatedly said he left the company in 1999.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., visited Bainport Tuesday, Oct. 16. The workers have previously welcomed former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and Bain workers from France to their encampment. The Rev. Al Sharpton is planning to visit the plant Saturday, Oct. 20.

Over the past few months, Sensata workers have tried to contact Romney with a 35,000-signature petition, frequent protests outside the plant and trips to nearby campaign offices.

In July, the Freeport City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Romney to meet the workers and use his influence at Bain to intervene on their behalf. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) echoed their call during a trip to Freeport later that month.

Workers took their campaign directly to Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 27-30.

Posted Oct. 17, 2012

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