Charges filed after Bain-owned Sensata threatens immediate shutdown

FREEPORT, Ill. – Unfair labor practice charges against Sensata Technologies were filed with the National Labor Relations Board today after the Bain-owned company threatened to shut their plant here immediately if workers continue efforts to stop the outsourcing of their jobs.

Sensata management delivered their threat to close immediately to the town’s mayor, George Gaulrapp and to Freeport police, not to the workers directly. Zoe Bridges-Curry, a spokesperson for the workers, said top executives from Bain headquarters in Attleboro, Mass., Came to Freeport and made the threat to both the mayor and the chief of police.

The mayor, who has been standing with the workers and has supported protests at “Bainport,” the encampment across the road from the plant and the chief of police passed the word along to the workers who then filed charges against Sensata with the NLRB. The filing accuses the company of illegally threatening and retaliating against employees engaged in legitimate organizing activity.

Determined to call Sensata’s bluff, workers and their community supporters began gathering at Bainport early this morning.  Jesse Jackson Sr., the civil rights leader who has already visited Bainport in support of the outsourced workers, was reportedly on his way back to the encampment this morning.

Jackson is expected to lead a march on the plant later today where workers and their community supporters plan to carry out acts of civil disobedience. In the past they have occupied entrance areas at the plant and have blocked trucks removing equipment. Workers at Bainport say they expect arrests today and a spokesman for Rev. Jackson said that if necessary he will be arrested along with the workers. Unions that have been supporting the workers, including the Steelworkers, are also expected to participate in actions later today.

Nine people have been arrested for protesting at the plant so far, as the protests have drawn larger and larger crowds over the last six weeks. The plant is scheduled to be shut down in December, with both jobs and equipment shipped to a new plant in China.

Three community supporters were arrested earlier in the month for blocking trucks from removing equipment and six were arrested when workers tried to deliver a petition to the plant manger last week as part of their effort to win full severance pay. The company has announced that it will cut severance pay from the promised 52 weeks to only26 weeks.

“Not only are they shipping our jobs to China, they are also trying to take away our rights as American workers,” said Joanne Penniston, one of the 170 Sensata workers losing her job. “We are not going to be intimidated,” she said this morning. “We are going to stand up for our rights and our jobs.”

The first charge filed with the NLRB today accused the company of “increasing security and announcing a new policy, or previously unenforced policy, prohibiting off-duty employees from entering work areas at non-work times, in response to and in retaliation for employees engaging in concerted activity.,” while the second charge accused the company of threatening to shut down early.

The charges follow Sensata’s shutting down of its plant for the entirely of last weekend in the face of national attention. MSNBC’s Ed Show broadcasted live from the Bainport camp on Friday in front of a crowd of hundreds, while CNN broadcast live from the camp three times last week.

Sensata workers have pleaded publicly with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to help save their jobs but have been repeatedly rebuffed.

Not only does Romney stand to profit from the outsourcing of these jobs through the stock he still owns in the company, his 2011 tax returns show that he got a huge tax break by moving Sensata stock to a charity organization he controls – and that he continues to profit from Bain’s offshore holdings and tax avoidance schemes.

Photo: People’s World visits Bainport, a protest encampment for Sensata workers who are losing their jobs to outsourcing. Sensata is owned by Bain Capital. Sensata Technologies makes sensors and instruments for the auto industry and is currently located in Freeport, Ill., in the northwestern part of the state. Roberta Wood/PW



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.