Jesse Jackson to visit ‘Bainport’ Oct. 22 as Sensata workers continue fight for full severance

Online Staff Report

FREEPORT, Ill. — The Rev. Jesse Jackson and members of the Rainbow-PUSH organization will visit “Bainport” at 3 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22.

Jackson’s visit will be in support of the efforts of Freeport’s Sensata Technologies plant workers to gain full severance prior to the November outsourcing of their jobs.

As we prepare for the final presidential debate in this election, we’ve got to make it clear that the rampant outsourcing of good jobs to countries like China puts the future of communities like Freeport in serious jeopardy,” said Tom Gaulrapp, who has worked at Sensata for 33 years. “That’s why we’re so pleased to welcome Rev. Jackson to Bainport today. With his help, we’re one step closer to putting a stop to Bain’s race-to-the-bottom business model.”

Jackson will speak at 3:30 p.m. and stay through the evening to watch the final presidential debate with Sensata workers and Freeport community members at Bainport.

The Sensata workers tried to deliver a petition to the plant manager Oct. 5 as part of their effort to win a full severance. The plant manager refused to accept the petition, so the workers sent it to Sensata’s headquarters in Attleboro, Mass., as well as Bain and Mitt Romney headquarters in Boston.

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.

The workers’ severance package was cut just a few months before Bain-owned Sensata took over the plant — signaling that the company wanted to avoid paying full severance to its employees when it shipped their jobs to China.

Six community supporters were arrested Wednesday, Oct. 17, during a sit-in that occurred in the entrance to the plant. The protesters demanded to meet with the plant manager to deliver petitions in support of a full pension, but the manager refused to come out and the police were called instead. Three community members were also arrested Oct. 8 after attempting to block removal of equipment from the plant.

Bainport is an encampment set up at Stephenson County Fairgrounds in Freeport, Ill., by workers facing outsourcing at the plant. The fairgrounds is at 2250 S. Walnut Road, Freeport.

Workers began the encampment Sept. 12 to protest Bain’s decision to ship their jobs to China and increase the pressure on former Bain co-founder and CEO and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to help save their jobs. The plant employs 170, and the final layoffs are expected to be made in November.

Created by Bain 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.

Sensata workers at the Bainport encampment were joined Oct. 20 by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Oct. 21 by workers from Republic Windows in Chicago who successfully occupied their factory four years ago and won their full severance. They have since become founding members of the worker-run cooperative New Era Windows.

The Sensata plant was shut down for the weekend of Oct. 20-21 in the face of growing protests and national attention.

MSNBC’s The Ed Show broadcasted live from the Bainport camp Friday night, Oct. 19, in front of a crowd of hundreds.

The workers’ movement has also gained national coverage in the New York Times, the Huffington Post and the New York Daily News.

Sensata has emerged as a flashpoint in the controversy over 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 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.

The workers plan to stay at the Bainport 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.”

According to SEC filings, Romney served as CEO of the private equity investment firm 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.

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.

The final presidential debate of the season will be from 8 to 9:30 p.m. (Central), Monday, Oct. 22, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Moderator will be Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s Face the Nation. Topic will be foreign policy.

Posted Oct. 22, 2012

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