WASHINGTON - A coalition of current and former employees at companies purchased by Bain Capital will spend the next month rolling through the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia protesting Bain's business practices and the economic plan of its founder and longtime chairman, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The "Bain Workers Bus Tour," organized by Democratic-leaning groups, began last week in Ohio and has spent eight days on the road while Romney has campaigned in the Buckeye state. Participants include current and former employees from Sensata, a tech company; the Burlington Coat Factory chain; Michaels, a chain of craft stores; Outback Steakhouse restaurants; and Dunkin Donuts, according to the group's website.
"Bain workers know firsthand what a Romney-Bain Economy looks like," the group wrote on its website. "Outsourcing the good jobs to China, [and] leaving mostly low-wage jobs with limited benefits here in our communities."
In Detroit on Thursday, about 140 tour participants rallied outside a Burlington Coat Factory store, where a Romney impersonator handed out symbolic pink slips.
Calvin Johnson, a Detroit native who teaches music at the Bain Capital-owned Guitar Center, told the crowd how difficult it is for him to live on the $8 an hour wage he earns. “I’m worrying [about] how I’m going to pay this bill, that bill and nobody should have to worry about that. I joined this movement to raise awareness that we really need to raise the minimum wage," Johnson said, offering one of the group's rallying cries. "We can’t survive on $7.25!”
The group also includes representatives from labor unions and workers rights groups. Their mission, they said, is to "warn voters about the dangers of a Romney economy."
Romney frequently points to his leadership of Bain as one of his key qualifications to be president, writing in an op-ed last month that "The lessons I learned over my 15 years at Bain Capital … would help me as president to fix our economy, create jobs and get things done in Washington."
But in a 1985 video of Romney unearthed on Thursday, the former Massachusetts governor can be seen explaining Bain Capital's purpose. The partnership, he says, "was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit."
During the years Romney led Bain Capital, the firm invested in a variety of companies. Some of them were successful, and created thousands of jobs. But others shuttered U.S. call centers and manufacturing plants and transferred jobs overseas to cut costs. A few notable examples, like American Pad and Paper, known as Ampad, were dismantled and sold off after being saddled with debt.
The Bain Workers Bus Tour will be in Ohio until Oct. 2. Then it will travel to Pennsylvania and New York before arriving in Florida in late October.