An employee at an Illinois manufacturing plant whose job is being transferred to China by a Bain Capital-owned auto parts company called Saturday on Mitt Romney, Bain Capital's founder and former CEO, to intervene to save his job, and said the "hypocrisy" of Romney's promise to safeguard American jobs and crack down on unfair trade practices by China was "mind-boggling."
The employee, Tom Gaulrapp, has worked at the auto parts manufacturer in Freeport, Illinois for 33 years. Sensata Technologies, which was acquired by Bain Capital in 2006, bought the plant two years ago, and immediately announced plans to lay off the 170 workers there, moving their jobs and the factory's equipment to China. "When they took over the plant they called everybody together for a meeting," Gaulrapp recalled in an interview Saturday on Up w/ Chris Hayes. "They said, 'Oh, by the way, all the jobs are going to be gone by the end of 2012."
Gaulrapp says the only person who can stop that from happening is Romney, Bain Capital's founder and former CEO. Romney still has millions invested in funds controlled by Bain Capital. According to his 2011 tax returns, Romney transferred $701,703 worth of Sensata stock to the Tyler Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit controlled by Romney. "The Bain Capital board has made their decision, the Sensata CEO has made his decision," Gaulrapp said. "The only person who can affect this is the largest shareholder in Bain, who's Mitt Romney."
Gaulrapp criticized Romney for talking about job creation and promising to crack down on unfair trade practices by China while standing idly by as the jobs at Sensata are shipped overseas.
"He had the nerve to stand up in Janesville, Wisconsin, less than hour drive from us, and stand behind a podium saying jobs are a top priority, and talk about getting tough on China. And his company, that he's the only CEO they've ever had, is moving my job to China, and 169 other people," Gaulrapp said. "They're destroying our American dream purely for greed, and it's just absolutely outrageous."
Of Romney, Gaulrapp added: "The hypocrisy of this man, and the people that are like this, is just mind-boggling."
In the two years since Sensata announced plans to offshore the 170 jobs at the Freeport plant, Sensata has been very profitable. The company reported net revenue of $1.8 billion and adjusted net income of $355 million in 2011. Those totals, Sensata said in a financial statement earlier this year, "represent record levels for the company." Despite those profits, and a vocal outcry by Gaulrapp and his fellow workers, both Sensata and Bain Capital have moved ahead with plans to offshore the jobs at the Freeport plant to China by the end of the year.
Both Sensata Technologies and Bain Capital declined to comment on the record. Romney has said repeatedly, including in last Tuesday's presidential debate, that his investments are controlled by a blind trust, and that he no longer has any say in decisions made by his company.
As President Obama noted during the debate, several companies in which Bain Capital has invested have been called "pioneers of outsourcing." In fact, a former partner at Bain Capital who worked at the firm with Romney and ran Bain Capital's manufacturing practice has proudly extolled the virtues of what he calls "cheap offshore labor."
In his book "Unintended Consequences," Edward Conard, the former Bain Capital partner and an outspoken supporter of Romney, championed offshoring as a way to improve cost-efficiency and deliver value to consumers:
Let’s not kid ourselves about just how cheap offshore labor really is. We not only pay substantially less per hour, we also avoid the costs we would incur if these workers immigrated here. We don’t pay for their medical expenses when they show up in the emergency room without insurance. We don’t pay for their pension costs if they don’t save for retirement. We don’t pay for their children’s public education. Nor do we pay for their out-of-wedlock children, their unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation, their slip and fall torts, their wear and tear on our public infrastructure, and the cost of their drunk driving, drug use and other crimes. We outsource pollution, its adverse effects on our health, and its clean-up costs. Neither the employees nor their employers are here to vote and seek political handouts.
Gaulrapp said those comments laid bare the unseemly logic at the heart of Bain Capital's business strategy: outsource the negative consequences of unfettered capitalism, and reap the profits that result.
"It just goes to show their arrogance," Gaulrapp said. "They're like, we'll do all the negative things somewhere else, and we'll take the money out."
He added: "They take all the good out and leave this mess behind them. And if they can do it someplace where they don't have problems with regulations or anything like that, they're all the happier. And that's why you see them screaming about, they want to get rid of regulations here. They would love to see that situation here, where they don't have to move it, where they can just dump whatever they want in the water."
Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, said during the same segment that the offshoring strategy pioneered by Bain Capital and other investment firms resulted, in part, from a shift in the way companies view their workers.
"I’d suggest that the kind of dislocation we have now is just because of a shift in values," Gaspard said. "We understood, following the industrial revolution and the Ford model, that if you paid your workers a living wage, they’d build a community, and they would be able to afford and pay for your products."
Gaspard added: "Now, clearly, we have folks who are in charge of these companies who are getting the bulk of their material, advantage and resources from overseas."
Gaulrapp said he wasn't sure what he would do once his job is moved to China on Nov. 5. Tellingly, the only other major source of employment in Freeport owed its survival, in part, to President Obama's trade policies. Gaulrapp said: "The only other large company is actually a tire plant which was saved by President Obama in getting tough on Chinese tires."