Reverend Jesse Jackson is the next high-profile activist who plans to visit the northwest Illinois encampment known as “Bainport.” Reverend Al Sharpton spoke to the crowd of protestors based at the Stephenson County Fairgrounds in Freeport Saturday. They’ve pitched their tents across the street from Sensata Technologies, where many of them will see their last day of work two weeks from today.
It’s called Bainport because Bain Capital owns a majority interest in Sensata Technologies, and protestors wanted to link the outsourcing of their jobs to China with presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, a founder and investor in Bain Capital. Nine- year-old Dylan Hoyer has a message for Romney:
What am I going to do when I grow up? Do I have to move to China?
Dylan’s mother, Kathy Hoyer, worked for Sensata and its previous incarnation, Honeywell, in Freeport for 25 years. She and her other son, Wes, were arrested recently during a protest: they are charged with trespassing for a sit-in in Sensata’s office, where they tried to present a letter demanding current employees be given the same severance packages they would have received under Honeywell. Wes says the arrest is worth it if it changes anyone’s mind about the outsourcing of jobs.
I just want them to come out here and talk to the workers and hear what they have to say before they go vote November 6th.”
Tom Gaulrapp (no relation to Freeport mayor George Gaulrapp) has been living in a tent at “Bainport” since early September. He says while it would take a miracle to save his job at Sensata, he hopes their protest will keep other companies from outsourcing. He says it’s about protecting a business’ reputation: Sensata Technologies is now known as an outsourcer, not as a manufacturer of electronic controls.
Cheryl Randecker loses her job on the same day as Gaulrapp, the day before the election. She has worked for the company for 33 years. Also like Gaulrapp, she leaves under a new severance package put in place when Sensata bought Honeywell. It caps their severance pay at 26 weeks worth. That’s at least 20 weeks less than the two would have earned had they left the company earlier. Randecker will head back to school to start preparing for her next career, whatever that may be. But for now, she’s splitting her time between her job at Sensata and her calling at Bainport: she wants to inspire workers to push back, even fight back, against corporations that send jobs to other countries.
The protestors and Freeport’s mayor had invited Romney and President Obama to debate jobs in Freeport, but were turned down by both campaigns.