Mrs. Dot Turner has worked at what is now Sensata Technologies in Downstate Freeport for 43 years. The company does sophisticated work creating sensors for automobiles. It enjoyed record profits last year. But not enough for its owner — Bain Capital — which is moving the jobs and the machinery to China.
When Sensata brought Chinese workers into the plant to be trained by those whose jobs they would take, the workers at Sensata protested. “When we started to demonstrate, they got those workers out of here,” Mrs. Turner told me.
The Sensata workers called on Mitt Romney — an investor in Sensata through his Bain holdings — to intervene. A group went to Iowa during the primaries to ask him to come to Freeport; they met with no success. Another group went to the Republican convention to ask him to come to Freeport; they had no success, either.
So, with the open support of Freeport’s mayor and City Council, the workers set up a “Bainport” encampment in the Stephenson County Fairgrounds right across the street from the plant.
“Welcome to Bainport, a taste of the Romney economy,” reads one sign. “Romney does have a jobs plan; too bad it’s for China,” reads another. And Mrs. Turner and others began to make their voices heard.
“We are suffering from the Bain model of capitalism,” Mrs. Turner said. “This is the way Bain works. They take over good companies, and then ship their jobs to China to make even more money.
“So when I hear Romney talking about creating jobs, he’s saying one thing and we are experiencing another. He’s creating jobs, but the jobs are in China, not here. And now under Bain, Sensata plans to give the managers and the supervisors their golden parachutes, but not the workers. I’ve been here 43 years, and they offer a lump sum payment for 26 weeks of salary. And the lump sum means taxes will take a big part of it.”
Probably a bigger part than Romney pays in taxes on his income.
“We’re getting the shaft all the way,” Mrs. Turner continued. “And we’re not going to take it quietly. We can fight for our jobs. We may not win, but we are in their face. You may roll over me, but I’m not going to shut my mouth while you do it.”
Mrs. Turner needs to be heard. The workers at Sensata are skilled workers. Their products are in demand. Their company is profitable and globally competitive. But what Texas Gov. Rick Perry correctly called “vulture capitalists” at Bain do is sweep in and ship the jobs overseas. Bain makes more money, but the families of the Sensata workers are at risk, the Freeport economy takes a hit and America loses more high-tech capacity to China.
In the debate with President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney had the gall to say he had never heard of a tax break for moving jobs abroad. But, in fact, Bain is infamous for taking advantage of every tax dodge and haven known to accountants. They can write off the expense of moving those jobs abroad, and Romney knows it. Romney has his own money stashed in Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Islands shell companies. He even benefitted from tax breaks, avoiding capital gains on his holdings of Sensata stock.
Worse, Romney supports a “territorial tax system” for multinationals that would make the rest of the world a U.S. tax-free zone. That would give multinationals a huge incentive to ship more jobs abroad or to report profits abroad to “harvest” another tax break. Romney is pushing national policy that will reward Bain’s model.
Everyone ought to listen to Mrs. Turner.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
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