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Sensata Workers Gain Support for Full-Year Severance Pay

The plight of Sensata workers affects the whole community of Freeport, Illinois, where unemployment is around 12 percent.

It might not be the same as keeping their jobs, but workers at the Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies are pushing hard for a full year’s severance pay. They argue it will help keep their families and communities afloat after Sensata outsources their jobs to China.

They now have the Freeport City Council on their side. The council passed a resolution in support of the workers receiving a full year’s severance pay on Monday.

For Mitt Romney’s detractors, the plight of the plant’s nearly 200 workers has come to symbolize the future of manufacturing and labor if he is elected – the closing down of factories, laying off workers and outsourcing production decided by a venture capital firm.

“A full severance is only fair after this Bain Capital company ships our jobs to China and makes us train the Chinese workers who are replacing us,” Tom Gaulrapp said in a press release about the City Council’s action. Gaulrapp has worked at the factory for 33 years.

Unless Sensata is convinced to extend the workers’ severance package, they will get 26 weeks of severance pay. They point out that Sensata’s third quarter profit rose 58 percent.

Along with their financial stability, Sensata workers argue that a year of severance pay is important for Freeport, Illinois, where the factory is based. The town has an unemployment rate near 12 percent and has been called “a backwater in the global economy.”

“Full severance not only helps the workers and our families, but it would help the town of Freeport’s economy,” said Gaulrapp.

Workers have been camping out in front of the factory and protesting its closure for weeks. The company threatened to close its doors immediately if workers did not stop protesting the closing of the factory. In response, they filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Romney owns $8 million worth of the Bain funds that hold 51 percent of Sensata’s shares.

He has run his campaign on America’s unfair trade balance with China, saying that he would label China a currency manipulator and threatened to apply tariffs on the country’s goods (

Meanwhile, he has investments in other Bain funds that have a large stake in American businesses that have been outsourced to China. According to The New York Times analysis of his candidate financial disclosure, Romney has $2.25 million invested in three Bain funds that have stakes in at least seven Chinese businesses.

This includes Asimco Technologies, an auto parts manufacturer with plants in eastern China. Nine years ago, the company employed about 500 people in Michigan.

His position on labor came under scrutiny earlier this year when he told a funders breakfast that “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

Recent revelations that companies owned by the Koch brothers have told their employees that they are at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t vote Republican has also cast a shadow over the GOP’s campaign.

As the country goes to the polls, Sensata workers continue to worry about their future.

Bonnie Borman worked with Sensata for more than 20 years in Freeport as a production technician. “All that’s left here is just minimum-wage, low-paying jobs that you can’t support a family on,” said Borman, who has already begun training her Chinese replacement.

At her current job she makes $15 an hour. “I’m kind of in that limbo place where I keep thinking: What am I going to do?”