Mitt Romney’s predilection with China threatens to boomerang on the GOP candidate. In emphasizing China as an economic and foreign policy antagonist, Romney himself has attracted special attention to his own portfolio of Chinese investments, and to loss of jobs to China resulting from outsourcing by firms like his own Bain Capital.
Right now, the firm in question is Sensata Technologies. Romney is a co-founder of Bain Capital, the private equity investment firm that created Sensata. Sensata designs, produces and markets sensors and controls for major auto makers including Ford and General Motors. Bain is forcing Sensata to close its Freeport, Ill. plant, which employs 170 American workers, and relocate the plant’s manufacturing activities to China by the end of 2012. This came up as a hot point of contention in the Oct. 16 presidential debate.
Many American employees already have been told not to report to work any longer. Sensata notified second and weekend shift employees in Freeport on Oct. 19 that they need not report to work any longer. Sensata closed the plant for all of this weekend and has barricaded entrances to the Freeport plant.
Emotional protests across the street from Sensata’s Illinois facility have gotten feverish as MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” broadcast special “Bainport” coverage Friday from the Stephenson County Fairgrounds. There Sensata workers have set up camp to demonstrate against Bain’s plans.
Sensata workers have broadcast vocal pleas to Romney to help save their jobs from being outsourced to China, but there are no signs of any plans to reverse the outsourcing decision. Democrats are using the issue of the Sensata plant to exemplify Mitt Romney’s alleged sellout of American workers, shipping jobs overseas for the sake of venture capital profits.
Sensata has scheduled final layoffs to take place by early November, right about the time of the U.S. election. American workers at the plant already have begun the humiliating task of training their own foreign replacements: low-wage Chinese workers who were flown to Illinois by Sensata itself. Perhaps more insultingly, when Chinese workers came to be trained Bain forced Sensata to lower the American flag and raise the Chinese flag in its place.
Romney stands to profit from the outsourcing of these jobs through the stock he owns in the company through Bain. Romney also has realized large tax benefits by transferring certain Sensata stockholdings to a charity organization he controls.