FREEPORT, Il. - Three protesters who were arrested yesterday when they refused to move out of the way of trucks leaving the Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies plant here have been cited for refusing to obey police orders, given future court dates, and released.
Sensata makes transmission line sensors for auto manufacturers. Workers and their supporters have been trying to call attention for months to the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has profited directly from the outsourcing of their jobs since he owns stock in Sensata.
Bain is moving out equipment from the plant here as it shuts down operations in the U.S. to ship 170 jobs overseas. Arrests were made yesterday after community supporters of the workers refused to comply with police orders to allow trucks removing equipment to pass the plant gates.
"We were trying to stop the removal of the machines," said 16-year-old Karri Penniston, who was one of the three arrested. Penniston, whose mother Joanne works in the plant, said she knew she was about to be arrested when a police officer told her, 'Young lady, please stand up.' "I did it because my mom couldn't do it herself, she's in the factory working," said Penniston. "It's for a good cause, I think this is just about the only way that I could get arrested and have mom be okay with it."
Penniston's mother, who is due to work her last day at the plant on Nov. 5, is among many of the outsourced workers who have been sleeping for 26 nights at a protest tent-city encampment across the road from the plant that they have named "Bainport."
"The police were very nice," said Debi Kempel, a community supporter who was also arrested and released. "The cops asked us to peacefully move and we said no. We were handcuffed, taken to the station, and fingerprinted."
Workers have gotten support not just from other community members, but from the mayor, the town council, and a variety of local businesses. They constructed their "Bainport" protest village with assurances from local officials that it will not be removed. Workers at the adjacent county fairgrounds have helped hook the protesters up with electricity for their tents and running water for toileting and showering. Local restaurants have sent deliveries of lunch and dinner, paid for by people from as far away as Massachusetts.
"We will be here as long as we have to be. This is going to affect everyone in town," said Kempel.
The arrests and releases followed a Saturday rally at the Bainport encampment that was addressed by Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP.
"When you look around Bainport today, I can see your voices are being heard," said Bond to the enthusiastic "residents" of the tent city. "The workers need to stick with it, keep at it, keep fighting, and they will win."
Workers say that in addition to dumping them, the company is trying to cheat them on severance pay. Their severance package was cut just before Bain took over the plant - which said to the workers that the company wanted to wiggle out of paying full severance when it shipped their jobs to China.
Three workers - Penniston, along with Tom Gaulrapp and Dot Turner - delivered a petition last Friday to plant manger Daryl Tessman, signed by most of the workers, demanding a full year of severance pay.
The three said he refused to accept the petition and that they will send it instead to Sensata's headquarters in Attleboro, Mass., as well as Bain and Mitt Romney headquarters in Boston.
Photo: Supporters cheer the three arrested for blocking Bain trucks as they are released. Bainport.com