Online Staff Report
FREEPORT, Ill. — Sensata Technologies employees in Freeport, Ill., on the plant’s second and weekend shift received phone calls from the company’s management Oct. 19 informing them they don’t need to report to work any longer.
Sensata is shutting down the plant’s operations for the weekend in the face of growing national outrage at the Bain-owned company’s outsourcing of the plant and its 170 jobs to China by the end of the year.
“We thought we’d be working today, but they now say not to come in at all,” said Sensata employee Bobby Ballard. “I asked if it had to do with the protests, and the person on the phone said yes.”
This past week, six community supporters were arrested during a sit-in at Sensata’s Freeport plant, and the protests have been covered by CNN, MSNBC and the New York Times. MSNBC’s The Ed Show will broadcast live from the “Bainport” encampment across the street from the plant tonight, Friday, Oct. 19.
The second shift workers have been told they will still receive their pay, but won’t have to show up. The workers are still fighting for a full severance. They tried to deliver a petition to the plant manager Wednesday, Oct. 17, 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.
“We said we’re not going down without a fight, but now they are running scared,” said Tom Gaulrapp, one of the workers who has led the protests and has worked at the plant for 33 years. “They are afraid of us and all the attention and support we’ve received from around the country.”
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.
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. 19, 2012