Here Is What Is Happening With #Sensata

If you are hearing about a company names Sensata, here is the story. Right now this company is moving equipment out of a factory in Freeport, Il. and shipping it to China. They are making the workers there train their Chinese replacements. And the end of the year they are laying off the American workers. The workers have set up a camp across from the factory and have named it Bainport. (please click!) Supporters are trying to block the trucks, and some have been arrested. This is all happening right now, even as Mitt Romney says he wants to “get tough on China.” So the workers have asked Romney to come to Freeport and help them.

“The week before they came they took the American flag down outside the plant. The week after they left they put it back up.”
See Wendi Kent’s moving photos of the Bainport camp, where workers are asking Romney to hep them:
Bainport, Illinois Pt.1
Bainport, Illinois Pt.2- Profits Over People

What’s Going On?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney started the “private equity” firm Bain Capital. Bain Capital makes its money by purchasing companies using “leveraged buyouts” that borrow huge sums using the purchased company’s own assets as collateral. They often use part of the borrowed money to immediately pay itself. Bain then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages. (Please see So DID Mitt Romney Really “Create Jobs” At Staples? for a look at how this works.) Then, after reorganizing the purchased companies Bain “harvests” them for profit. (“Harvest” is Romney’s word, watch the linked video.)
Bain Capital purchased a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain, and named it Sensata. They immediately announced they closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China to save money. (This is significant because China is engaged in efforts to dominate American auto supplies. See China Cheating Costs 400K Auto Parts Jobs and Why The Latest Trade Complaint Against China Matters. )
Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.
The Sensata employees have asked Romney to come to Freeport/Bainport and help them. Read on to learn about Romney’s response to the Sensata workers, and how Romney is actually making big money right now from shipping their jobs to China.

Romney’s Opportunity

Mitt Romney is not running Bain Capital anymore. While he still makes millions from the company, and gets checks from the profits made when they ship jobs to China), this is a tremendous opportunity for him. Can you imagine a better spokesman for the Bainport employees than the former head of Bain Capital, who now says he opposes the kinds of things that Bain Capital is doing here?
This is an opportunity for Romney to show the public that he actually means it when he says he wants to do something about companies sending jobs to China! Here is his former company, people who know him, sending jobs to China right now and there is no one in a better position to put pressure on them to stop this than the former head of the company, and on top of that a presidential candidate!
What an opportunity for Romney to show that he means what he says!

Will Romney Help?

Mitt Romney wants to be President, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly wants something done about jobs and factories moving to China and the resulting was pressure that puts on the rest of us and on our economy. So Romney says he will do something about it.
But Romney’s current actions are opposite his current words. He complains about China currency manipulation, but refuses to ask the Republican House leadership to bring the China currency bill up for a vote, and refuses to ask more than 60 Republican co-sponsors of that bill to sign a “discharge petition” that would force a vote.
And Romney refuses to even meet with Sensata workers. When asked if Romney would help these workers the Romney campaign says Romney will not do it:

“Governor Romney has not worked at Bain Capital for over a decade, but for four years President Obama has been presiding over an economy that is creating too few jobs and sending more jobs overseas. Despite the President being invested in Sensata through his personal pension fund, and the government owning a major Sensata customer in GM, President Obama has not used his powers to help this situation in any way.”— Curt Cashour, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

PS – SNL

Here is SNL addressing the disparity between how Chinese workers are treated (because they don’t have a say) and American expectations:

For More On Sensata

Is This Why Romney Won’t Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?
You Should Know About Sensata – It’s What The Election Is About
Election Or Not, What Happens To Sensata-Style Workers?
Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport – This Is An IMPORTANT Story
Breaking – Arrests At Sensata “Bainport” Camp
Paul Harris at The Guardian: ‘I’m sick to my stomach’: anger grows in Illinois at Bain’s latest outsourcing plan
Also, see:
Bain Of Our Existence – Go To place for stories and info about Bain Capital.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos: Mitt Romney profits as Bain sends American jobs to China PLUS a Daily Kos campaign:
Send a message of support to the Sensata workers as they fight to keep their jobs and shine a light on what a Romney economy would look like.
Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story,
Romney, Jobs And China – Let’s Connect Dots
Rights Report Describes Romney-Owned “Brutal Chinese Sweatshop”
Romney, Republicans Again Side With China Over US Companies
Ohio And China – One Side Promises While The Other Delivers
China Is Very “Business-Friendly”
Will Conservatives Support American Companies … Or Chinese?
Ohio And China — One Side Promises While The Other Delivers
Here is a Democracy Now! report:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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So DID Mitt Romney Really “Create Jobs” At Staples?

Did Mitt Romney really “create 100,000 jobs” with Staples? Simple answer: only if no one else was selling office supplies, stationery, etc. before Staples came along. What Staples did was force many competing stationery, office supply and computer stores out of business, probably shifting their employees into lower-wage jobs. Staples was just one more part of the Wal-Martization of our economy in the last few decades. In our system the wealthy few have the power to lay people off or force pay cuts and then pocket the difference for themselves. We have to come to grips with that, and fix the system.

Job Creator?

Mitt Romney says he should be President because he and his company Bain Capital created 100,000 jobs at Staples and “created jobs” at other companies that Bain took over. So … did Mitt Romney really “create jobs” at Staples? Or did he and Bain really just follow the Wal-Mart model, using the advantages that come with having large, national chains, putting a number of local, smaller businesses out of business, while shifting a lot of people into lower-paying jobs? Understanding the difference is important because Romney says he will help the country “create jobs” the way he helped “create jobs” at Staples.
He says his experience is just what is needed to solve our national jobs emergency. He wants to apply the methods that “created 100,000 jobs at Staples” to the entire country. He says he will cut regulations and cut government and make the country more “business-friendly.” This means we should take a good look at Staples and the rest of the companies Mitt Romney and Bain Capital and others like them operated, and decide if this is really the way We, the People want to go.

Staples

Staples grew into a major chain because they consolidated what different kinds of stores sold, offering a one-stop-shop for stationery products, office supplies, office-furniture, computers, etc. They also were able to be competitive because of the advantages of scale as they grew into a national chain, centralizing functions like accounting, purchasing, legal, marketing, etc. And never underestimate the power of having a ton of cash at your disposal. This is all just smart business, well executed.
As Staples grew it overtook competing chains like Businessland and others. In other words, Staples took business from other, existing stores — often local retailers. Staples did not “create” jobs, it shifted office-supply jobs from local stores, etc., probably to lower-paying jobs. (The former owners of local businesses certainly were worse off from this.) They likely even lowered overall office-supply, stationery, etc. employment in the larger economy.

Low Wages?

How do these”Romney job creator” jobs stack up against other jobs? Average Staples salaries for job postings nationwide are 51% lower than average salaries for all job postings. The pay at Staples appears to be around $8-10 an hour. That’s $16-20,000 a year, certainly not enough to support a family, or even pay rent in many areas, never mind buying food. (The 2012 poverty guideline for family of four is $23,050.)

Wal-Martization

Big, national chain stores like Wal-Mart have tremendous advantages over local businesses because they are able to take advantage of scale. They buy from manufacturers and distributors in mass quantities, which means they can demand lower prices from them, and offer lower prices to customers. They can centralize accounting, HR and other management functions and employ these people in-house instead of contracting with local accounting firms, etc., also enabling them to offer lower prices.
And when they are big enough they can squeeze, and squeeze and squeeze their workers for lower wages and fewer benefits, their suppliers for discounts and other concessions, and even their customers by reducing support and staff, again enabling them to offer lower prices.
This is just the kind of “job creation” that makes a few people really wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, “hollowing out” the middle class.
(Here’s an industry secret –those multi-page advertising supplements that come in the Sunday paper are profit centers for the chains, not an advertising expense. The market power of these big chains enables them to demand “market development” payments from product manufacturers and distributors before they can gain shelf space, effectively making the newspaper and other advertising into profit centers instead of advertising costs.)

The Effect On America

I wrote about the impact of this “squeeze them all” business model on the American landscape in Lorain, OH Keep It Made In America Town Hall Meeting:

As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.
You used to hear about how Wal-Mart was predatory, how it would show up in an area and after a while the downtowns would dry up, local business-owners would go broke, local business employees would be laid off, and the local people would have to work for low wages at Wal-Mart, while the region’s spending money would go off to the wealthy few who run these things.
Well a juicy story of devastation like that one gets around, and there are those who hear it and say, “Hey, that’s a great idea, I wanna get me some of that.” So the Wal-Mart business model has taken off and now there are any number of these vultures, ringing the cities and towns around the country, so often private-equity owned. They are draining away the lifeblood of the downtowns, fighting off the unions to keep wages down, even demanding tax breaks to move in and “create jobs.” You see all the same stores circling every town now, running all of the local and regional businesses unto the ground.

Restructuring?

The changes in our economy that are hollowing out the middle class come from the restructuring that Wal-Martization represents. (And bad trade deals, never forget that.) Big, national chains have natural advantages over small, local businesses. And when they are big enough they have the power to squeeze employees, suppliers and even customers. The same kinds of advantages also hold for other industries.
Big, multinational corporations have advantages of scale over smaller companies. Etc., throughout our system. And big companies have tremendous power to squeeze workers, making them accept lower pay and benefits. They have the power to squeeze suppliers and customers as well.
These giant companies even have the power to squeeze communities and even states, demanding tax concessions with the threat of relocation. This has put our tax base in a downward spiral along with our wages.
These giant businesses have the wealth and power to force changes that move the benefits of business and our economy entirely to a few at the very top.

The Playing Field

As I wrote above, this is all just smart business, well executed. Business are just neutral bundles of contracts that operating on a playing field of laws and regulations. They only do what we let them do with the laws and regulations that we set out there for them to operate under, and those that do that the best and smartest win the game.
But why would We, the People allow businesses to do things the way Wal-Mart and the rest do them with the terrible results we see all around us? Don’t we want businesses that benefit all of us? Isn’t that the point of having a We, the People country? Don’t we want businesses that pay good wages, provide good products and services, and pay us back with taxes that enable us to have good infrastructure, internal improvements, and public structures like good schools, universities, courts, police, firefighters, health care, retirement and a fair share of all the other benefits of modern society?
Why is the playing field defined in a way that is so obviously hurting us and funneling all the benefits of our economy to a very few at the top? This restructuring is occurring the way it is because we let these businesses do these things to us. Businesses are not good or bad — they can’t be, they are not sentient and do not have morals. They are just bundles of contracts. Again, businesses are neutral, operating on a playing field defined by us. We can change that.
Our problem today is that a few people are able to change the rules of that playing field, for their own benefit. Once we allow money to influence our government decision-making and our public attitudes and understandings at all, then of course it will influence that decision making to their advantage, and will do so more and more as they gain more wealth and power from it, until there is nothing left. This is the road we are on.
The playing field is tilting and tilting and We, the People are starting to fall off the edge.

What Can We Do?

Cut to the chase. We currently operate under an economic paradigm, or system, in which the Romneys have so much power they can fire masses of people or force people to take pay cuts, and then pocket the difference for themselves. They can squeeze their suppliers for greater and greater concessions and then pocket the difference for themselves. We have to come to grips with that.
Romney/Bain didn’t really create jobs with Staples, they put small office and stationery retailers and other already-existing competitors out of businesses and moved the workers from those outlets into jobs at Staples that pay very little. In other words, they didn’t create 100,000 jobs, they lowered 100,000 people’s wages.
Romney made his money opertating on a playing field of business rules that let him and Bain and Wal-Mart and the rest do what they do. They were all able to tilt that playing field in their favor using the wealth and power they already had, and they tilted it in ways that gain them more wealth and power.
Mitt Romney gained his wealth and power on that playing field, and is campaigning with a promise to further tilt that playing field in favor of the few who already have great wealth and power.
We can change those rules. We can demand better pay, higher taxes at the top, better products, better service, and all the things sensible people would demand if We, the People were really in charge.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Note – while researching this post I came across Jonathan Tasini making a number of these points in the LA Times in January, in Not all jobs are equal,

Even if he’s telling the truth by some measures, the fact is that private equity buyouts often enrich those who arrange them by sharp cost-cutting, including dismantling pay and benefits for most of the workers who remain or new hires who join the more “efficient” enterprise. It’s simple math: To service the huge debt taken on in virtually every buyout, workers take cuts. And the new jobs aren’t necessarily a path to the American dream.
Take Staples, which Romney trumpets as one of his successes. The company certainly pays some of its employees well: Staples Chairman and Chief Executive Ronald L. Sargent received a total pay package of more than $15 million in 2010. But jobs in retail — one of the fastest-growing job sectors in recent decades — tend to pay poorly, and Staples jobs don’t seem to be an exception to that rule.