There's been a story developing in my neck of the woods for the last year or so, that is beginning to gain national attention, and deservedly so. Because the story is a microcosm of the larger socio-political world we're living in, and one that presents a clear choice for the future of our country, especially as it pertains to the upcoming elections.
Freeport, Illinois is a typical Midwestern small town, about 30 miles from where I live. (King-Cat readers may remember me talking about wanting to move there in issue #65.) One of the industries in Freeport is a Honeywell automotive sensor making plant. In early 2011 it was reported that a company called Sensata Technologies had purchased the sensor-making business, and planned to ship the 170 jobs at the plant to China within two years. Now, those two years are up. The plant is moving overseas.
Well, it turns out that Sensata Technologies itself was purchased in 2006 by a firm called Bain Capital. Bain Capital?? Where have I heard that before...? Oh yeah, it's the company that presidential candidate Mitt Romney created to purchase businesses, manage them briefly, and then "harvest" them for a profit (his words). Bain Capital is now "harvesting" the jobs of 170 working class American people.
Yes, that's right-- right here, right now, the Republican candidate for President, in the middle of a presidential campaign, is making a profit off shipping American jobs to China. And this is how Mitt Romney plans to bring manufacturing back to the US?
A few facts:
Workers at the sensor plant made up to $17.00 per hour. The Chinese workers replacing them will make 99 cents an hour. Management in many cases forced soon-to-be laid off workers to train their Chinese replacements, who in China will work up to 16 hour shifts per day, with one day off per month.
Sensata is a non-union plant. So all you right wingers who try to pin the blame for the death of American manufacturing on unions, I'd like to hear who your scapegoat is this time.
And this is also not a case of someone buying a dying business and selling it for parts. Sensata made 500 million dollars net profit in the second quarter of 2012. I guess that wasn't enough money for the shareholders?
As I've written before, when will these people be satisfied? How much suffering imposed upon regular Americans for the profit of the rich will be enough? Where does the greed end?
I used to think it was in the best interests of those with wealth and power to have a stable, comfortable middle class below them. Stable, comfortable middle class people bear the costs of running our society, they like the status quo, they don't want to rock the boat, and they buy lots and lots of consumer goods.
It has occurred to me over the last several years, that these people don't give a damn about the middle class, or anyone for that matter, outside their circle of friends (and I wouldn't even count on that!). Thanks to globalization, they don't need an American middle class anymore. I see our society quickly slipping into a kind of modern day feudalism, where those with money and power live in castles on the hill, while the rest of us peasants muck it out in the valley. The two worlds are not connected anymore. They don't give a damn about American workers, or those in need, why would they? Their focus is on the expanding markets of China and India. They took away people's jobs, then conned them into three decades of debt-maintained lifestyles, and now that's over too. To them, America is a husk that's been drained of resources and buying power. They are living in America, but not of it. They couldn't care less. All that matters to them is their pathological accumulation of money, no matter the damage it inflicts on others.
American jobs -- how quaint! A thriving middle class-- no longer necessary!
A few days ago the progressive talk show host Ed Schultz came to Freeport, where the displaced workers have set up a protest camp across the street from Sensata, named Bainport. I drove out to show my support and see what the scene was like.
The road to Freeport is straight down beautiful Highway 75.
Bainport fire ring,
The Freeport High School sports teams are famously named the Pretzels.
Big Ed Schultz.
Cheri Bustos, congressional candidate for Illinois' 17th District, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky talk to Ed.
Look at faces on these people. These are ordinary, working class people. We're witnessing the development of a new populist political movement in the United States.
The Nation's John Nichols and Ed joke around with the crowd.
Make no mistake, Sensata is the economic future that the Mitt Romneys of this country are shooting for. To elect him president of the United States would be the worst case of putting the fox in charge of the hen house that could be imagined.
If you agree with me, please do your part to help re-elect Barack Obama on November 6th. Vote, of course, but try to find other ways to help. Tells friends and neighbors about Sensata, and what it means for the future of our country, volunteer in get-out-the-vote drives, stand on the corner and wave a sign. In these difficult times, anything helps. The right wing in this country is counting on fear, misdirection, corruption and lies to give them even more power. But I guarantee you there are more of us than there are of them: 99%. Stand up for yourself and your family and neighbors. This is it.
More useful links:
Ed Show Clips
Rock River Times article
American Conservative (!): "Revolt of the Rich"
Bain Capital PDF on the "benefits" of outsourcing