Online Staff Report
FREEPORT, Ill. — The Rev. Jesse Jackson will return to Freeport, Ill., Wednesday, Nov. 28, to meet with workers at Freeport’s Sensata Technologies plant about their efforts to gain a full severance from the company. He will also be in town to appear along with 13 other arrestees at a court date relating to their Oct. 24 arrest.
The 14 were arrested Oct. 24 after attempting to march onto company property against the company’s wishes.
Jackson’s Nov. 28 meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. at the Stephenson County Courthouse, 15 N. Galena Ave., Freeport, Ill.
Bain Capital-owned Sensata plans to close the Freeport plant in December and outsource the plant’s 170 jobs to China. Workers at the plant have been training their Chinese replacements, who have been flown to Illinois by the company. Sensata develops, manufactures, and sells sensors and controls for major auto manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors.
Sensata employees who have been at the plant for 20, 30 and even 40-plus years are getting 26 weeks of pay as a severance from Sensata, even after training their Chinese replacements.
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.
Sensata emerged as a flashpoint in the controversy over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ties to China this past fall. Sensata workers pleaded publicly with Romney to help save their jobs from being outsourced to China, including presenting his campaign with a 35,000-signature petition and attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. Romney never responded to their calls for help.
Two unfair labor practice charges were filed against Sensata with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Oct. 24 after the company threatened to shut its Freeport plant down immediately if its employees continued to organize to stop the outsourcing of their jobs. The first charge was for “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,” while the second charge was for threatening to shut the plant down.
For 59 days, Sept. 12-Nov. 9, the movement rallied around an encampment called “Bainport” at Stephenson County Fairgrounds. The Bainport encampment and the efforts of Sensata workers gained national attention this fall, as MSNBC’s The Ed Show broadcast live from the location and the New York Times, the Huffington Post and the New York Daily News all provided coverage of the movement.
Bainport also welcomed many national figures to the fairgrounds, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., United Auto Workers President Bob King, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and Bain workers from France.
Twenty-three individuals have been arrested since the protests began. Among those arrested were the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop Tavis Grant and former Rockford Ald. Victory Bell.
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Posted Nov. 27, 2012