Employees at Sensata Technologies in Freeport, Illinois, protested Mitt Romney's visit to nearby Janesville, asking the Republican presidential candidate and former head of Bain Capital for their jobs. Sensata is now owned by Bain and is in the process of laying off hundreds of American workers. The workers know that Romney has the influence at Bain to save their jobs and since he's campaigning on a "jobs first" platform, they asked him to put his money where his mouth is.
"My priority is putting Americans back to work, that's job number one," said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Wisconsin is considered a battle ground state for the presidential election, and the main fight Monday was over jobs.
"If your priority is jobs, you got to get rid of Obamacare," said Romney. "And I will."
But not everyone thinks Romney is the right man for the job. Some people outside the rally don't think the country is his main priority.
"People that are making that kind of money and that are paying this kind of money for these campaigns are not in the best interests of the American people," said Iver Knuth, who came to Janesville to protest against Romney.
Not so far away in Freeport, over a dozen workers at Sensata Technologies are blaming Romney and a company he ran 2001, Bain Capital, for sending their jobs over seas. They want Romney to be more clear on how he plans to put them back to work.
"I've never heard him just really say what he's going to do to save our economy," said Dot turner, whose job is being outsourced overseas.
Romney's response; to invest in energy production like coal, oil, and natural gas.
"I want that energy here, because I want those jobs here, were going to bring employment back up in America," said Romney.
The disconnect between Romney's words and his history is a major theme of his current bus tour across the Midwest:
Mitt Romney’s “Every Town Counts” bus tour brought the presumptive Republican presidential nominee across southern Wisconsin and into Iowa Monday and Tuesday.
But the towns didn’t count enough for him to learn their real histories and their real needs. And the tour scrupulously avoided towns where Romney’s Bain Capital continues to put the hurt on American workers.
In Janesville, Wisconsin, where a sprawling General Motors plant closed three years ago, socking the town with one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, Romney failed during his stop to discuss the plant or GM. He couldn’t exactly rip into his November opponent, Barack Obama, for not doing eneough to reopen the plant—a credible gripe—since Obama worked during his first term to save GM while Romney talked up the idea of letting the company go bankrupt.
That’s the problem for Romney. He has been on the wrong side of so many economic fights that it is impossible for him to play the economic populist in communities that could stand with a little populism.
But the real story of Romney’s tour is the towns that don’t count with him.
When Romney made stops in Janesville and Dubuque Monday, he was just up the road from the town of Freeport, Illinois.
But Romney did not stop in Freeport, a town that like Janesville and Dubuque has been hard hit by trade and fiscal policies that encourage corporations to shutter US factories and ship jobs overseas—and that has been even harder hit by speculators who buy up factories, strip the assets and close them.
On the day Romney was busing across the region, employees of Freeport’s Sensata Technologies plant gathered in front of the factory with handmade signs that read:
“Romney! Stop Bain Outsourcing to China”
“Mitt Romney Save Our Jobs”
“Romney: Instead of talking about JOBS, just don’t ship MINE to China”
The Sensata Technologies plant, which has been on the forefront of producing state-of-the-art automotive sensors, was owned by Texas Instruments, and then by Honeywell, before being sold in 2010 to Sensata Technologies Holding, N.V, a firm based in the Netherlands but majority-owned by Bain Capital. Bain, the private equity firm that Mitt Romney helped to develop and that continues to make him a very rich man, has since consolidated ownership of Sensata.
The workers at the plant wanted Romney to make a slight detour on his bus trip and take a look at the devastation being caused by Bain’s machinations at a plant where many of them have worked for more than thirty years.
The plant’s operations are rapidly skrinking as Sensata moves to outsource work from Illinois to China.
“This used to be a very high-volume plant and now it’s pretty much a ghost town…and by the end of the year it will be a ghost town”, Sensata employee Cheryl Randecker told local reporters.
Had Romney come to Freeport, he would have heard how much Bain’s approach has harmed not just the Sensata workers but Freeport and counties along the Illinois-Wisconsin stateline that have suffered more than their share of plant closings.