In response to more than 170 impending layoffs at Sensata Technologies, a Bain Capital-owned plant slated to be outsourced, a collection of community, religious, and labor leaders have promised to ban together and fight back to save the Freeport jobs.
“When I found out that my job was going to be shipped overseas to China ... at first I was angry, now just five or six months away from unemployment, I’m scared,” said Cheryl Randecker, a Sensata employee who has worked at the plant for 33 years. “As a single mother, I don’t just worry about myself, I actually worry about my daughter."
In early 2011, Sensata, a maker of sensors and controls that are used in aircraft, automobiles, and electric motors, announced it would be relocating the jobs in Freeport to China and closing the local plant. Normal operations have continued following the announcement, but hundreds of jobs are being phased out gradually and final layoffs are set to occur just before the holidays in December.
On a conference call Thursday, Randecker was joined by more than 10 community leaders and activists in a pledge to fight the impending layoffs.
“When I found out that I was losing my job I realized I couldn’t support my daughter’s education,” said Randecker on the conference call. “After working hard for so many years and giving so much to my job, I should be able to give my daughter a good education ... I don’t even know how I’m going to make my house payments and pay my bills.”
Randecker and her fellow employees are currently training their Chinese replacements, who have been flown to Illinois by the company, a process she says is “challenging.”
“We know now from a couple decades of experience how fully destructive outsourcing is, it’s creating a race to the bottom, it’s driving out wages and working conditions for workers all over this country, it’s leaving communities absolutely devastated and that’s what’s going to happen here if this proceeds,” said Carl Rosen, president of District 11 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, on the conference all. “We frankly don’t know what Bain Capital is thinking.”
With a population less than 30,000, Freeport’s unemployment rate, at 10.4 percent in March, is more than the national average of 8.2 percent in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“When a company like Sensata chooses to lay off workers and put profits over people, it’s inexcusable,” said Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, on the conference call. “Now more than ever we need good jobs in our communities, if Sensata follows through with it’s plan to lay off more than 170 workers it would devastate not just the families of the laid off workers, but the entire community of Freeport.”
In 1984 former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, presumptive nominee in 2012’s presidential election, helped found Bain Capital, and for nearly 15 years he was actively involved in running the private equity firm that owns Sensata Technologies.
Many of the people supporting Sensata workers have directed their fight to Romney. On Thursday’s conference call, Randecker asked the community leaders and organizations to sign a letter that will be sent to Romney, asking him to help save Illinois’ jobs. On June 18, while Romney was campaigning in Wisconsin, Randecker and more than a dozen of her fellow Sensata employees staged a protest urging Romney to visit Freeport to see firsthand the effects of outsourcing.
“If candidate Romney’s campaign promise is ‘creating jobs first,’ then let’s see if he can walk that talk. Part of creating good jobs in America is keeping the good jobs we already have,” said William McNary co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois, on the conference call. “Citizen Action joins the Sensata workers in calling on candidate Romney to step in and save the jobs of our sisters and brothers in Freeport and stop these good jobs from being shipped overseas to China.”
In addition to targeting Romney, this month’s Sensata rally also saw a petition being passed around, urging Congress to pass the Bring Jobs Home Act, which offers incentives for businesses to stay in the U.S. Randecker said the next rally for Sensata employees will occur on July 8 in Freeport.
Sensata Technologies’ officials were unavailable for comment.
Image: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta