FREEPORT, Ill. -- On the day of the second debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Bain Capital workers here and across the country are stepping up their efforts to expose Mitt Romney's role in the outsourcing of their jobs.
Jeff Whitson, 52, a self described lifelong "conservative Republican" whose job at the Bain-owned Sensata plant here ends Nov. 2 said this morning that the experience has led him to change his political thinking.
"The Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin and the Democratic candidate for Congress, Cheri Bustos, are out here today supporting us," he said. "Where are the Republicans? They and Romney have turned their back on us."
Whitson and his co-workers are in Day 35 of the protest encampment "Bainport," which they set up across the road from the Sensata plant where 170 local workers had good-paying jobs making auto sensors for much of their lives.
"Your struggle is critical to the all important task of keeping good jobs in America," Durbin told the cheering campers.
Workers at Bain-owned companies on the East Coast, including Staples, Burlington Coat Factory and Dunkin Donuts, plan to protest in Hempstead, N.Y. tonight outside the site of the presidential debates. "Some of the people from our plant are out there and will be joining them," Whitson said.
Whitson said he has a message for everyone watching the debates tonight.
"Think very carefully before you consider voting for Romney," he said. "Romney is making his money off the outsourcing of our jobs. The future he has in store for us could well be a future where after giving a lifetime of service to a company you just get kicked in the pants, tossed aside."
Whitson said the experience of having his job outsourced has changed much more than just who he thinks about voting for. "You may think I am being silly, I hope you don't, but I was shaken when I watched them take apart the machines I have worked on for so many years, getting ready to ship them off to China. Those machines were a part of me, I cared for them, I love them, I can't even bring myself to walk past the spot on the floor where one of them stood."
Three community workers were arrested last week when they tried to block trucks leaving the plant with equipment destined for China.
Earchiel Johnson contributed to this article.
Photo: At the meeting with Sen. Durbin, Sensata worker Tom Gaulrapp talks about how Romney doesn't care about American workers. Bainport.com