September 20, 2012 < Previous Entry | Next Entry >

Amy Goodman’s Fireside Chat with Workers Set to Lose Their Jobs After Decades at Bain-Owned Plant

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman speaks with three workers at the Bain-owned Sensata Technologies factory in Freeport, Illinois, all of whom are camping in a tent city called "Bainport" across the street from the factory. Dot Turner has worked there for 43 years, Cheryl Randecker for 33 years, and Bonnie Borman for 23 years. All three will lose their jobs in November as the plant moves to China.

Click to see Part 1 and Part 2 of Thursday’s interviews with the Bain workers.

Click here to see our coverage of the workers when they traveled to the Republican National Convention in Tampa to seek a meeting with Republican presidential nominee and Bain Capital co-founder, Mitt Romney.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’ve just arrived in Freeport, Illinois, about an hour and a half to two hours from Chicago. Oh, it’s about 10:00, 10:30 at night. There’s a large white tent here and a campfire, because we’re across the street from the Sensata plant. Actually, it’s the old Honeywell plant that was bought by Sensata, which is owned by Bain Capital. And a group of workers and their supporters are camping out here until the factory closes, exporting its jobs to China. They’ve built a stage, which we see over there in the darkness, that says, "Mitt Romney: Come to Freeport." And above, it says "Bainport."

Can you tell me your name?

DOT TURNER: Dot Turner.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are you doing here across from the factory that you work in?

DOT TURNER: We are protesting Bain Capital sending our jobs to China, outsourcing our jobs to China.

AMY GOODMAN: How long have you worked at this factory?

DOT TURNER: For 43 years.

AMY GOODMAN: What year did you start?

DOT TURNER: I started in 1969.

AMY GOODMAN: And how old were you?

DOT TURNER: I was 18 at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Forty-three years, you worked in this one factory.

DOT TURNER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did you learn that you would be losing your job?

DOT TURNER: On December the 30th, 2010.

AMY GOODMAN: What had happened then?

DOT TURNER: They called us into a room, and they told us that if you’re sitting in this room today, you are now an employee of Sensata.

AMY GOODMAN: Honeywell had sold to Sensata.

DOT TURNER: Honeywell—yes, Honeywell had sold us to Sensata.

AMY GOODMAN: So where does Bain come into this?

DOT TURNER: They own Sensata.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you feel on that day when they told you that you would—after they told you you’re working for Sensata, when did you learn you’d be losing your job altogether?

DOT TURNER: They told us that day. They were blunt and to the point. They told us to [inaudible] don’t, you know, build on false hopes thinking that the company purchased the automotive line, that it would be staying. And they told us between 18 to 24 months they were phasing the business out, and they were sending it to China, and they brought in Chinese workers for us to train to take our jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: You trained your replacement?

DOT TURNER: Not in my particular area, but in most of the other areas that they had to train the Chinese workers.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you feel, and how did your co-workers feel who were doing that?

DOT TURNER: Angry and belittled. I mean, it was like an insult to have—take your job but then request that you train the replacements.

AMY GOODMAN: When does your job end?

DOT TURNER: November 30th, 2012.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be—will you be getting any kind of severance?

DOT TURNER: I will get a six months’ severance, and I’ll be able to collect unemployment.

AMY GOODMAN: Six months’ severance for—

DOT TURNER: Forty-three years.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you going to do then?

DOT TURNER: See what—what’s available for me, what’s out there, look into some type of retraining. But at my age, who would want to go through, you know, that kind of trouble, when you’ve had a solid job for 43 years, hoping to retire the normal way?

AMY GOODMAN: I see you all have built a stage that’s inviting Mitt Romney to Freeport. Why Mitt Romney?

DOT TURNER: Because he is one of the investors and owners of Bain Capital. Even though he denies it, he still has a big part in Bain Capital, because Bain Capital is bringing the investors in millions of dollars. So why would you turn loose a company that you stand a chance of making millions?

AMY GOODMAN: What would you say to him if he did come to Freeport?

DOT TURNER: I would tell him that he has the power and the authority to stop this. If he was really concerned about the American people and if he was concerned about creating jobs, the 12 million jobs that he always uses as his stump speech, he could create this job by leaving it here.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gone to see him at any of his rallies?

DOT TURNER: Not me, but some of my other co-workers, they went down to Tampa. And they made the same request, and to my understanding, no answers.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you or your co-workers say to the Chinese workers who were there? Did they understand how you all felt?

DOT TURNER: Probably. But, you know, a lot of them, their English is limited. So, you know, you don’t do a lot of communication with them, explaining to them how you feel. And it would probably be irrelevant to them anyway, because we’re sad and they’re happy.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have kids?

DOT TURNER: Yes, three.

AMY GOODMAN: So they grew up with their mother here at the plant?

DOT TURNER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: How are they feeling now?

DOT TURNER: Pretty bad that it happened to me at my age, when I should be thinking about, you know, sliding into retirement, you know, comfortable nest egg, and just enjoying retirement. And this job has provided me with the means to put all three of them through college, so, you know, I was able to do—at least do that for them, something that I never had an opportunity to do myself.

AMY GOODMAN: So what are you doing out here tonight? It’s 10:30 at night, and you’re sitting in front of a campfire, and there are a lot of tents around here across from the Sensata plant.

DOT TURNER: This is a part of a speaking out and our protest about what’s happening to our jobs. And it’s an invitation for Romney to come here and actually talk to us and see the sacrifices that we’re making to try and save our jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: What time do you go to work in the morning.

DOT TURNER: Five a.m.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re just going to walk across?

DOT TURNER: Walk across there.

AMY GOODMAN: Do your co-workers inside know that this encampment is going on here?

DOT TURNER: Yes, very much so.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are they saying about it?

DOT TURNER: Them, including the management.

AMY GOODMAN: And what’s management saying?

DOT TURNER: Management’s not saying anything. Management is basically very unfriendly to us, because in their eyes, you know, OK, your job is going away, so it’s happening—it happens all over this country, so what’s there to be upset about?

AMY GOODMAN: But won’t they be losing their jobs, as well?

DOT TURNER: I’m sure, to my knowledge, that Sensata has not offered them any type of positions, but I’m pretty sure they’re getting a nice big fat bonus, and it’s going to be more than six months’ severance.

AMY GOODMAN: Dot Turner is turning in right now, because she goes to the plant at 5:00 in the morning. Looks like she will until November 30th. And here’s Bonnie Borman, who we met in Tampa, Florida. We met her in Romneyville, actually, you know, designed—named after the old Hoovervilles of the Depression. Bonnie, you’re back here in front of the plant. What time will you be going to work in the morning?

BONNIE BORMAN: I have to be there at 7:00.

AMY GOODMAN: So, again, how long have you worked at this plant?

BONNIE BORMAN: I’ve worked for Sensata for 23 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Twenty-three years, although it wasn’t Sensata when you started.

BONNIE BORMAN: No, it was not. It was Honeywell. And I was actually a couple months—maybe three or four months pregnant with my daughter when I started.

AMY GOODMAN: Where’s your daughter now?

BONNIE BORMAN: She’s in that tent over there, sleeping with my grandson, where I will be joining them soon.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re camping out across from the factory you’ve worked in for 23 years.

BONNIE BORMAN: Yes, I am.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever camped out here before?

BONNIE BORMAN: No, I have not. I told somebody when we first came out here that the last time I camped, my middle child was six months old, and next month he will be 28. So—and it wasn’t a really good experience, because he cried all night long. So, this isn’t something I normally do.

AMY GOODMAN: So why are you doing it?

BONNIE BORMAN: Because I think that we have to speak out. I think that if we don’t say anything, then we’re pretty much telling them that it’s OK that they’re doing what they’re doing. And it is not OK. It’s not OK to ship my job to China, because now I’m going to be unemployed, and I’m not looking forward to that or to have to go back out there and try to find another job and to find a job that’s equivalent to what I have here, so...

AMY GOODMAN: What have you been doing here?

BONNIE BORMAN: I work in the automotive department running machinery that make parts for Chrysler, GM. So—and, you know, it’s—automation is an American technology, and now we’re giving it to the Chinese. And what—we’re giving away all of the good jobs that this country has, and we’re getting stuck with minimum-wage service jobs that you can’t live on.

AMY GOODMAN: When we spoke in Tampa, you said now you’re going to compete for jobs with your daughter?

BONNIE BORMAN: Exactly. My daughter cleans rooms at the Country Inn & Suites here in town. And, you know, it’s a service job. It’s minimum wage or less, you know, and it’s not something I’m looking forward to.

AMY GOODMAN: What is made in this factory?

BONNIE BORMAN: We make all kinds of sensors and stuff for the automotive industry, like cam and crank sensors and transmission sensors.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you learn that you’d be losing your job?

BONNIE BORMAN: It was, I want to say, the end of January of 2011.

AMY GOODMAN: And who told you?

BONNIE BORMAN: Well, actually, Honeywell told us that we had—or they had told us a few months before that that we were sold, but that we couldn’t find out any of the information about the deal or any benefits or anything until the deal was final. So, when we went into the meeting with Sensata, basically that’s when we were told then, that "Welcome to Sensata. And, by the way, we’re going to move these jobs to China in the next 18 to 24 months."

AMY GOODMAN: They’re moving all of the machines in the factory?

BONNIE BORMAN: Yes, everything.

AMY GOODMAN: Have they started?

BONNIE BORMAN: Oh, yes. There’s probably a good half of the building that’s already empty. Actually, where I started in this factory, those machines are all gone.

AMY GOODMAN: So you watched them dismantle them?

BONNIE BORMAN: I seen, yeah, them moving stuff, yeah, bit by bit.

AMY GOODMAN: So, right behind you is this stage that people built here that says, "Mitt Romney: Come to Freeport." Why Mitt Romney?

BONNIE BORMAN: Well, because he wants to be the president of the United States, and he started Bain Capital. You know, he created that model. And he still profits from it. And so, if he wants to be president and he wants to create jobs, then he needs to start right here, where we already have jobs, and stop them from going overseas.

AMY GOODMAN: What will you do? What’s your last day of work?

BONNIE BORMAN: It’s supposed to be around the 5th of November, so...

AMY GOODMAN: The day before Election Day.

BONNIE BORMAN: Exactly. It’s not a good time to have somebody be unemployed, if you want—especially for Mitt Romney, because, you know, if he wants my vote, he better get me a job—or keep my job.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the reaction of the other people in the plant across the street to what you’re doing here?

BONNIE BORMAN: There’s a lot of curiosity. I personally wish that more people would get involved. I understand, you know, that a lot of people are worried about, you know, repercussions and stuff. There’s laws against that, but, you know, some people are just not willing. And I do understand, you know, there’s a lot of single mothers and fathers that, you know, they can’t take that risk.

AMY GOODMAN: What would they be losing, since they’re already going to be losing their jobs?

BONNIE BORMAN: Well, the severance that we will be getting. And I don’t know if they can deny you unemployment if they fire you or terminate you. I’m not sure about that. But, yeah, those are, you know, things that they can’t risk at this point, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: So, what will you be getting after 23 years working here?

BONNIE BORMAN: I’ll get 23 weeks of pay, I guess, or twenty—yeah, 23 weeks. So, a little over four months, five months, almost, pay.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you remain here in Freeport after the plant closes?

BONNIE BORMAN: Yeah. My husband still works at the Honeywell that’s on the other side of town, so hopefully that will stay. So—but I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’m still—I think that a lot of the shock won’t hit until the day we get up and don’t have to go to work. I think that—you know, I mean, you try to get prepared for it, but I just think that until it really happens, you don’t really—we’re not going to know how it’s going to hit us. So...

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bonnie, you’re sitting next to Cheryl, who we also met in Tampa at Romneyville. Cheryl, why don’t you introduce yourself again to our listeners and viewers.

CHERYL RANDECKER: I’m Cheryl Randecker, and I work at Sensata, and I’ve been there for 33 years.

AMY GOODMAN: So you were there when it was Honeywell, then bought by Sensata, which is owned by?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yes, by—Sensata is owned by Bain Capital, which is, in turn, Romney’s baby.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you actually camping here?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yes, but my camping is in my car.

AMY GOODMAN: And what’s—what’s the point? Why are you camping out here?

CHERYL RANDECKER: To prove a point. To make—to basically do just about anything to save our jobs and to bring the attention, too, that people will do just about anything to save a good job. And that’s what we all were asking for, is to have these jobs saved.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid of repercussions?

CHERYL RANDECKER: At this point, no, because there really isn’t too much they can do. They’re already taking my job. They’re taking my livelihood. They’re taking my means of supporting my family away. So, with it getting closer, it’s almost like you really can’t do too much more to me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, here you sit in front of a campfire to stay warm.

CHERYL RANDECKER: Stay warm and just kind of look into the flames and try to reflect and find some calming and some sense out of all the chaos that goes on over there.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you, remarkably, were sent to China by Honeywell, when the plant was owned by Honeywell.

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yeah, and I went over there and trained for the air flow of the medical devices that Honeywell transferred over there in 2010.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned at the time that this flow of jobs to China would end up meaning you all were going to lose your jobs?

CHERYL RANDECKER: No, I actually thought I’d probably be safe with the automotive, because Honeywell had been trying to sell automotive for quite some time. And we did hear, when we were in China, that it was sold. But when we came back, they denied it. And then about four months later, they announced it. So, it was a surprise that it’s acted this fast. I thought it would take a little more time. But so be it, I guess. Life will go on. It’s just going to be a hard one.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you went there, and you were training workers, eventually who are taking the jobs here of the workers here. And then Chinese workers were sent here, as well?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yeah, Sensata brought their own Chinese workers over from Baoying and Changzhou to train on the automotive lines, because where I was at in Nanjing was the air flow pressure lines from Honeywell. So, they brought their employees over here, and some were new hires and some had been there for some time. But we had to train them on the operations that are being moved over in our particular line, which are high—they’re technical machines. And they really didn’t pick up well on the machines that are being built, and not to mention the machines don’t run that great all the time. So, it’s—when you’re running so many parts over a machine, things break, and if you don’t see them and you’re not running them on a day-to-day basis, then when you run into the problem, you may not be able to fix it.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did it feel to train the workers here?

CHERYL RANDECKER: At the time, we treated them with respect, because it—you can’t take it out on them particular people, because it’s the corporations that are doing it. So we just kind of—you have to bite the bullet. And this is our job. We have to do the best we can do. We want the best parts, because then parts are going to come back to us in our automobiles. So we do want them to have good quality. We just are very sorry that it’s at our expense.

AMY GOODMAN: Has management said anything to you about this, what you’re calling a "Bainport" encampment across the street from the factory?

CHERYL RANDECKER: They haven’t actually came up to me personally and said anything, but there was a flier on a locker today advertising our event this weekend, and it was pulled down within the first three hours and—I’m not sure what—I’m assuming threw away, but...

AMY GOODMAN: What is the event?

CHERYL RANDECKER: The Bain bus tour is coming to town, and we are going to greet them and have an Italian beef luncheon for them and speaking and different activities going on. So there will be a little more activity here on Saturday.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is this Bain bus tour?

CHERYL RANDECKER: It’s going around to Bain headquarters and to Bain companies and basically protesting the fact that the minimum wage is so low and, in our respect, outsourcing.

AMY GOODMAN: When Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech on the floor of the Republican convention, he talked about the companies he had turned around as head of Bain Capital, one of those being Staples.

CHERYL RANDECKER: I’m not sure about all the stuff he thinks he’s turned around and all the jobs he’s created, but the fact that he’s destroying 170 lives here in this area, that’s where my concern is.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s not head of Bain Capital anymore.

CHERYL RANDECKER: No, he may not be, but I bet you his stock holdings are majority share, so therefore he’s still a very strong stockholder and involvement in that company.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you went with another worker, Tom Gaulrapp, to Bettendorf, Iowa, to a Romney campaign event?

CHERYL RANDECKER: No, actually, Mark Schreck went with him. So, he’ll be later.

AMY GOODMAN: What is this big white circus tent for?

CHERYL RANDECKER: That’s—well, actually was the gathering tent until today, when the tent—the other tent blew down. But it’s—right now it has everything. It has the food in there. It has the computers in there to keep us connected. And it has some media, other media stuff in there, where we can gather in case just it rains out here.

AMY GOODMAN: So it’s going to get colder by November 5th.

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yeah, it will be colder by November 5th. We will have to be done here, I think, by the 1st of November, because the fairground actually closes. So we will have to either find a different place or just, you know, be done, but...

AMY GOODMAN: So this is the town grounds? They own this area?

CHERYL RANDECKER: This is the county—this is the county fairgrounds of Stephenson County.

AMY GOODMAN: And they let you use this, camp out on it?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yes. We are using it, and we have their backing and everything. The town—the community is behind us. The mayor is behind us.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you a single mother, Cheryl?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yeah, I have one daughter, and she’s 20 years old and involved in—trying to go to school for nursing.

AMY GOODMAN: Is she scared about what’s happening to you?

CHERYL RANDECKER: Yeah, she’s kind of—I’m doing this for her, but I’m also—she’s supporting me and saying, "It’s going to be OK, Mom." But it’s the first time I’ll be out of a job with raising her, and I’ve done it all by myself. And I really—it’s scary. But she’s a good supporter. I raised her well, so—but it’s scary. With no insurance coming, we just hope and pray that nothing majorly happens, because it’s not there. And she’s with school; she can’t have full-time work. So, I don’t know. We’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: So your thoughts on what will happen next?

CHERYL RANDECKER: What I hope would happen next is that we’d make a huge impact on the decisions that are being made that affect the everyday person. And that’s what I hope for. And I hope that Mitt Romney would come to Freeport, talk to us, tell us why. Let us show you what your economy is doing to the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I don’t know if he’s going to come here to Illinois, though you are between two swing states—Wisconsin and Iowa.

CHERYL RANDECKER: Hey, it’s always worth a try. You can’t—you know, you’ve got to ask him. He can always say no, but you’ve got to ask.

AMY GOODMAN: Bonnie, I was just remembering you were saying your daughter is in the tent. If you don’t have work here, were you providing health insurance for your family?

BONNIE BORMAN: Yes, I provide health insurance for my daughter. My husband carries his own insurance, and when I lose my job, I will be able to switch to his insurance. But my daughter then will be—will have to rely on the state medical insurance.

AMY GOODMAN: Cheryl, Bonnie, Dot, just a few of the workers who will be losing their jobs in November when this plant across the street here in northwestern Illinois in the town of Freeport, when these jobs are outsourced to China. One by one, the machines in the plant are being disassembled and are being sent to China, even as they’re working in the plant. I’m Amy Goodman, right across the street from the—what once was a Honeywell plant, bought by Sensata, owned by Bain Capital, for Democracy Now!