WASHINGTON - Current and former workers at companies purchased by Bain Capital will protest the private equity group's practices outside the second presidential debate Tuesday night in Hempstead, on Long Island. There, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the founder of Bain Capital, will debate President Obama in a contest that is seen as a must-win for the president after his poor showing at the first debate in Denver.
Hempstead will be the latest stop on the Bain Workers Bus Tour, a city-by-city trip organized by a coalition of labor groups and unions that began in Ohio in late September. Organizers say the goal of the trip is to showcase "what a Romney Economy would mean –- no benefits, no healthcare, and downsizing an everyday fact of life." Romney formally left Bain Capital in 1999, but he still owns significant shares in the company through blind trusts managed by an adviser.
On Monday, the group protested outside the headquarters of Bain Capital in midtown Manhattan, where a larger-than-life Bain monster puppet -- outfitted with features of the Batman villain Bane -- posed for pictures as protestors chanted slogans. The Bain monster includes a dial always turned to "outsourcing." Protestors participating on Monday included workers from Sensata technologies, a company in the process of transferring operations to China this year. Mary Jo Kerr, a Sensata worker who is currently helping train her Chinese replacements, told the crowd, “Knowing that [my] co-workers and I will be jobless, while the Chinese economy and its people will benefit from Bain Capital’s selfish business practices, makes me angry."
Protesters like Kerr could find a sympathetic audience in working-class Hempstead, where more than one in five children under 18 lives below the poverty line, according to the 2010 census. The debate at Hofstra University will be a town-hall format, with questions coming from the audience.
The Bain Workers Bus Tour could also find allies Tuesday among the Obama campaign, which signaled on Saturday that Romney's career at Bain would likely be raised by the president during Tuesday's debate. Asked about the president's preparations, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, "Gov. Romney has been making pitches all of his life, and he knows how to say what people want to hear, whether that was during his time at Bain or during the dozens of town halls he did during the primary."
Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984, and cites his successful leadership of the highly profitable company as one of his key qualifications for the presidential office. He frequently cites, correctly, that Bain helped grow a number of companies and that Bain takeovers saved other companies from bankruptcy, helping to preserve thousands of jobs.
But the former Massachusetts governor has had trouble explaining some of Bain Capital's business practices, which in certain cases included transferring manufacturing plants overseas and cutting U.S. jobs, to blue collar voters in swing states like Ohio and Virginia. Democrats, meanwhile, have taken the opportunity to portray Romney as a ruthless corporate raider, more intent on making a profit than on preserving American manufacturing.