Bonnie Borman has worked for 23 years at a competitive and profitable auto parts plant in Freeport, Illinois. Now, she and the other employees are training the Chinese workers who will take over their jobs — in China.
According to The Guardian, the Sensata auto sensors plant is being dismantled, piece by piece, to be shipped overseas. Its 170 American workers will be left unemployed in an area that’s already suffering from the economic downturn. Borman says, "I am going to be competing for minimum wage jobs with my own daughter.”
Why is this happening? It isn’t an unusual story, but Bain Capital, the company that owns Sensata has been in the news quite often lately, in connection with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. “Bain bought the firm that was to become Sensata in 2006, when it was the Texan arm of a Dutch company. It then floated it on the stock exchange in 2010, but kept a majority stake. Sensata came to own the Freeport plant at the beginning of 2011 as part of a wider purchase of a car parts business from Honeywell.” Bain Capital has made a lot of money from Sensata, but not enough, apparently. Even quadrupling its initial investment hasn’t quenched its desire for more profit. That increased profit will come from Chinese workers whose wages are a fraction of American wages.
Freeport workers have appealed to both Bain and Romney to save their jobs. The mayor of Freeport, George Gaulrapp, said, "This company is competitive globally. They make a profit here. But Bain Capital decided to squeeze it a little further.” He’s joined in his support of the workers by the state’s governor, the local city council, and several Illinois politicians.
Even though Romny left Bain in 1999, his part in making the company a success seems to be coming back to haunt him. Cheryl Randecker said, "I didn't have a clue what Bain was before this happened. Now when I hear Romney speak it makes me sick to my stomach."
There has been no word from Bain Capital about the situation, and the Romney campaign has tried to dissociate itself entirely.
The effects of the plant closing won’t stop with the unemployed workers. There will be economic ripples that affect local businesses and make Freeport’s foreclosure problem even worse. "‘There is a sense of fright. People don't know what this means for their families, their health insurance and whether they will keep their homes,’ said mayor Gaulrapp.”