Employees at an Illinois Sensata Technologies plant delivered a petition to Bain Capital Tuesday night, demanding that the private equity firm step in and prevent the scheduled outsourcing of 165 jobs at the company, which it owns.
In 2006, Bain Capital purchased what was then a subsidiary of Texas Instruments and renamed it Sensata Technologies. Five years later, Bain-owned Sensata took over a sensors and controls plant in Freeport, Ill., from Honeywell, and then announced it would be phasing out 165 jobs at the plant by the end of 2012. Those jobs are now headed to China and the plant will be closed. Representatives for Bain did not respond to request for comment.
Plant employee Cheryl Randecker spearheaded the petition, which would grow to 35,000 signatures and gain the support of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and others. The petition calls on Bain Capital to "save these jobs before it's too late." It also names Mitt Romney, the former Bain Capital CEO, asking him to "speak out and insist that Bain Capital -- a company that he helped start and that he continues to profit from -- do the right thing."
Randecker, a 52-year-old mother who has worked at the Sensata plant for 33 years, is slated to lose her job by the end of the year. And like others at the plant, she says she's been forced to train her replacement from China.
"With so many hardworking Americans still out of work, the last thing our country or our state needs is another corporation shipping good, American jobs to China," Schakowsky said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. "Not only is Bain taking away these workers' incomes and livelihoods, the company is forcing them to train their replacements from China. That's outrageous."
She continued, "I applaud all the workers at the Sensata plant who have had the courage to stand up against this epidemic of outsourcing."
Though Romney has said he retired from Bain in 1999, years before Bain bought Sensata, Randecker says the presumptive Republican presidential nominee bears some responsibility for the job losses at the plant.
"He was actually the one who created the model. I do blame him," Randecker told The Huffington Post, adding that the former Massachusetts governor still wields tremendous influence over the private equity firm.
The delivery of the petition on Tuesday was the latest step in an active campaign by some Sensata employees and their allies. They've held several protests over the last few months to try to raise awareness of the impending outsourcing, in addition to bringing their cause to the Freeport City Council. In July, the council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Romney to prevent the jobs from leaving the city.
"These people felt it was a little hypocritical that [Romney] was with Bain Capital, he organized some of the processes, and now he's touring the country ... saying we need to keep jobs here in the United States," Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp (D) told The Huffington Post in July. "And yet for a long time, he made a lot of profits by tearing companies apart and sending them overseas."
But the efforts to keep the jobs at the Freeport plant haven't come from just one side of the aisle. Two Republicans, Reps. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), asked Sensata's CEO to reconsider the company's decision to relocate production to China in a July letter. Manzullo currently represents Freeport, but once redistricting takes effect this election cycle, Schilling hopes to represent the city as part of the new 17th Congressional District.
However, the two Republicans have not signed the most recent petition. They argue that Bain Capital can't be held responsible for what are ultimately the decisions of Sensata's CEO and board of directors.
"We would love to keep the company here in Freeport, there's a great workforce out there, and we strongly supported that and made our intentions known to Sensata," Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter told The Huffington Post. "The information we have is it's not a Bain decision, it's a Sensata decision," he added, referencing a letter that the CEO sent to the representatives.
"Our customers are global and we have located our major business and manufacturing facilities near them in locations around the world. Two-thirds of our revenues come from outside of the U.S.," Sensata CEO Thomas Wroe Jr. wrote in the letter, continuing, "We know these layoffs are very difficult for the people affected and we have made efforts to ameliorate this."
Andrea Pivarunas, a spokeswoman for Schilling, echoed that perspective and suggested that the blame for the job losses lies with the Democratic Party.
"Illinois Democrats over the last several decades have not only been outsourcing Illinois jobs to other nations but also to neighboring states like Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin," Pivarunas said in an email to HuffPost. "Their policies of over-regulation, over-taxation, and over-spending have sent Illinois companies packing over the years, taking many jobs with them."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Rep. Jan Schakowsky helped deliver the Sensata employee petition and spoke Tuesday. Alex Armour, political director for Schakowsky's campaign, sent a statement from the congresswoman to HuffPost, and confirmed later Wednesday that the statement was said by the congresswoman "last night." Armour informed HuffPost late Wednesday that the congresswoman was not in attendance Tuesday.
Photo from the protest:
(Photo credit: Ilya Sheyman)