Police have arrested three people for blocking the removal of equipment from the Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, Illinois. Workers at Sensata have set up an encampment called “Bainport” across the street from the facility to protest plans by Bain Capital to close the plant and move operations to China, taking 170 jobs with it. Sensata is owned by Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. We hear from two of the detained protesters: Karri Penniston, 16, whose mother works at Sensata, and Debi Kempel, a Bainport supporter from nearby Pearl City. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: That’s music from the Bain & Company annual meetings, where employees came together to form what was known as the “Bain Band.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nermeen Shaikh is in New York. But we’re going to talk about what’s happening in Illinois right now.
Three protesters were arrested for blocking the path of trucks leaving a Freeport, Illinois, plant set for closure by Bain Capital. The protesters began the blockade earlier this month to stop the removal of equipment from their workplace. Workers at Sensata Technologies have set up a three-week encampment called “Bainport” across the street from the plant to protest plans to close it and move it to China, taking 170 jobs with it. Sensata is owned by Bain Capital, the private equity firm co-founded by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The workers say they plan to continue the blockades of trucks removing their equipment.
Democracy Now! first spoke to the Sensata workers at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, where they unsuccessfully tried to meet up with Romney. Then, we broadcast live from the workers’ encampment, which they call Bainport, late last month on our 100-city tour. We spoke to one of the people who was just arrested now; she is 16-year-old Karri Penniston.
KARRI PENNISTON: I’m here because I’m supporting my mom and supporting everybody that works out at Sensata, because, I mean, I really think it’s a big issue. And people don’t—people support it, but they’re like, “Uh, should I jump out of my body and do something bold with the rest of the people, or should I just stay back?” So, I’m showing people that it is OK to let loose and do something different for once.
AMY GOODMAN: Why does it matter to you so much?
KARRI PENNISTON: It matters to me because this is our—like, it’s our source of income. When my mom loses her job, we’re not going to have, like, money for Christmas. It’s going to be harder to, like, get by. We’re going to be living on basically whatever she gets paid for the month, like those little checks for unemployment. That’s what we’re going to be living off of. I mean, it’s a great opportunity at the same time, because she’ll get the schooling, but the schooling really doesn’t matter anymore. I mean, you can get a job anywhere and not have a degree. And I think my mom’s good at what she does, and I don’t think she deserves to lose her job.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the connection to Mitt Romney?
KARRI PENNISTON: All I know is that he owns the company that owns my mom’s work. And, I mean, I think he—if he just maybe said, you know, “Can we not send these people’s jobs to China?” maybe they would listen because, I mean, he is kind of famous. He’s running for president. I mean, people look up to him. And maybe that would change their minds, if he said something.
AMY GOODMAN: What would you want him to say?
KARRI PENNISTON: I would want him to just say he’s sorry, because he is living the sweet life while we’re sitting here trying to scramble through our thoughts and figure out what we’re going to do in a month from now when she doesn’t have a job. And maybe he should be put in our shoes and get to experience what that feels like.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you—has your mom had this job ever since you were born?
KARRI PENNISTON: Yes. I really don’t remember her having any other job but working at, well, Sensata, but—
AMY GOODMAN: And before that, it was Honeywell.
KARRI PENNISTON: Yeah. So, I mean, and all my family has worked there, too. So, it’s like—it’s crazy.
AMY GOODMAN: What do think about her job going to China? What have you learned about China in school?
KARRI PENNISTON: I think it’s terrible.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?
KARRI PENNISTON: Not China, but I mean I just think that her losing her job is terrible. It’s a really bad feeling, because I know when she loses her job, I’m going to have to help her. I mean, and I will help her, because she’s helped me through my life, so I owe it to her to help her, as well. And as for China, I don’t know. I think it could be a fun place, but not when they’re taking your job.
AMY GOODMAN: That was 16-year-old Karri Penniston, who is one of those arrested for blocking the path of trucks leaving the Freeport, Illinois, Sensata factory, which is set for closure by its owner, Bain Capital. Karri was arrested on Monday, as was Debi Kempel, a supporter from Pearl City, Illinois. I also spoke to her when we visited Bainport. She was arrested on Monday, as well.
DEBI KEMPEL: I am here because people that have their livelihoods—they’ve raised their families, they’ve worked at their jobs, put in long hours and hard hours—they’re losing them to communist China. And Romney, who is—he benefits from Bain Capital, he doesn’t seem to think that there’s any correlation at all, and I just believe in their cause. I feel bad.
AMY GOODMAN: So you live around here?
DEBI KEMPEL: I live about a half-an-hour west of here, mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you hear about what was happening at the plant?
DEBI KEMPEL: Actually, my son works for a group that was up here helping them, and he’s the one that called me and said, “Mom, you can come out. We’ve got petitions that you could have people sign.” And so, I’ve been kind of involved since the end of June.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what will it mean for the community when this plant shuts down?
DEBI KEMPEL: Well, you know, I’m really afraid of that, because it’s going to affect everybody. It’s going to affect people in Pearl City and in city, towns south and north and west and east. And if these people are unemployed, they aren’t going to be able to do all the shopping that they’ve always been able to do, and they won’t be able to go to movies, and they won’t be able to do just maybe the extra stuff that they are used to doing, and that’s going to affect the other businesses in this town. And it’s—you know, the unemployment is already so high in this town, and the crime rate. And this town is, what, 27,000. I don’t know what the crime rate is, but it’s not good. There’s a lot of unemployment. And if other people are losing their jobs, it’s not going to get any better. It’s really sad.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Debi Kempel, one the three protesters arrested for blocking the path of trucks leaving a Freeport, Illinois, Sensata factory which is set up for closure by its owner, Bain Capital. It’s a remarkable scene there in Freeport, in the fairgrounds across the street from the factory. To see our full hour broadcasting from what the workers are calling Bainport, this encampment across the street, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.