As support grows for the Sensata employees whose factory jobs are slated for outsourcing to China later this year, the Freeport workers continue to fight to keep the plant open — and are turning up the heat on Mitt Romney.
“By the end of the year my job will be gone and I won’t have health insurance. When you’re getting older, that’s a scary thing,” said Tom Gaulrapp, 54, a lifelong Freeport resident who has worked at Sensata Technologies for 33 years and is a far-removed cousin of the mayor. Many Sensata employees, including Gaulrapp, have been asked to train their Chinese counterparts in preparation for the factory to move overseas.
Through protests, rallies and letters to the president of the company, legislators and community leaders have joined Gaulrapp in the fight to save his and 169 other jobs at the plant owned by Bain Capital, a company founded by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee in 2012’s presidential election.
“We understand that protesting may not be able to save our jobs,” he said. “But in doing this, we can put pressure on these businesses and let them know people are not going to just sit there and let their lives be destroyed because executives want to make an extra dollar."
More than 200 people crowded into Logan’s Bar and Grill last Sunday to pledge support for the factory employees, including Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp, members of the Freeport City Council, a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and community activists from organizations such as Citizen Action Illinois, Jobs with Justice, Arise Chicago, and Stand Up Chicago.
“We have a good, productive workforce, much better than where they’re sending their equipment,” said Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp in an interview. “I have relatives out there; I have friends out there… Outsourcing is bad for the community. Right now, we have people working, not collecting unemployment checks or unemployment benefits.”
Layoffs at Bain Capital-owned plants, such as Sensata, have forced Romney’s history with the private equity firm and his wealth into the spotlight. Outsourcing has recently become the target topic for political debate
At a rally in Colorado earlier this week, Romney called President Barack Obama the "outsourcer-in-chief,” while the same day Obama’s campaign issued a statement claiming Romney “personally profited from investments in companies that were pioneers in shipping American jobs to India and China as a corporate buyout specialist.”
While layoffs and outsourcing have been pushed to the tip of Romney’s tongue, employees of Sensata, a maker of sensors and controls that are used in aircrafts, automobiles, and electric motors, are hoping he will step in and save their jobs.
Last month, a letter was sent to Romney on behalf of the employees asking for his intervention. On July 16, the Freeport City Council will vote on a resolution that calls on Romney to visit Freeport and see firsthand the devastating effects of the scheduled layoffs.
“(Chicago Jobs With Justice) fully supports the effort to get Romney into Freeport to see what’s going on,” said Susan Hurley, executive director of Chicago Jobs With Justice. Having grown up in Rockford, which is a short distance away from Freeport, Hurley said the situation is “personal” for her.
“This is a company that Romney created and this is their business model. I think he needs to answer to that.”
Image: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta