MSNBC’s Ed Schultz hosted Friday’s broadcast of The Ed Show from “Bainport,” a protest site across a soon-to-close manufacturing plant in Freeport, Illinois.
Employees of Sensata Technologies, who are losing their jobs to China, are petitioning for a visit from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a fair severance package for its laid-off workers. Workers and community activists are calling the encampment the “home of the Romney economy,” and believe it is a place that dramatizes the profits-over-people approach Romney brought to Bain.
Sensata Technologies, a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of sensors and controls for automakers, is mostly owned and controlled by Bain Capital. The plant is reportedly profitable, but lower wages in China could boost profits even higher.
Workers have been protesting the plans to transfer 170 jobs to China, and are asking for severance packages equal to one year’s pay. Many Freeport workers have put 30 or 40 years at the company. Terminations reportedly began Friday and will continue through the end of the year.
Protesters have made a formal request of Romney to step in but haven’t received a response from the candidate or his campaign. They plan to keep protesting until the GOP candidate agrees to help save their jobs.
“We just want to know what his plan is [against outsourcing], the step-by-step plan that he says he has on the campaign trail,” Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp told Ed Schultz. “We are inviting him here. We just want to know what he has to say.”
Sensata worker Joanne Pennison said if given the opportunity, she would ask Romney, “Why is he going around telling the nation that he’s going to stand up to China, when a company he helped create and he still profits off of is sending my job to China?”
Romney still owns $8 million in Bain funds that holds 51% of Sensata shares. According to The Huffington Post, Romney’s recently-released 2011 tax returns reveal that the presidential hopeful transferred over $700,000 worth of Sensata stock to a tax-exempt nonprofit— effectively giving Romney a tax break.
On Wednesday, six people were arrested after trying to deliver a petition in Freeport. When the plant manager refused to admit the community supporters, they sat down in front of the main door until police arrived. At the company’s Massachusetts headquarters, a group of five Freeport workers succeeded in delivering a similar petition.
According to Bainport.com, a site run by Sensata workers, the company closed the plant for the weekend ahead of Friday’s live broadcast of The Ed Show. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are also scheduled to visit “Bainport” on Saturday.
For The Nation’s John Nichols, the fight for workers’ rights and against outsourcing goes beyond Freeport: “Every state in this country has a Freeport. It may have a different name, but across this country we have seen plants like this shut down; profitable plants full of hard working Americans who are ready to do the job. And the tragedy of it is, that so many of them have been shut by Bain Capital.”