Sensata Technologies, an Attleboro, Massachusetts-based sensor manufacturer, is mostly owned by Bain Capital. As the company prepares to replace workers at an Illinois plant by offshoring jobs to China, soon-to-be laid off workers have been protesting both Bain Capital and the corporate values instilled by the company’s former CEO, Mitt Romney.
Several protesters descended on Sensata’s headquarters Thursday. A local paper reported that “about two dozen people, including six Sensata workers and supporters from Illinois, held signs and chanted: ‘We are from Freeport, we are united, we don’t want a Romney Economy.’” Protesters have asked Romney to intercede on their behalf, thus far to no avail.
During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Romney sought to deflect the politically embarrassing investment and argued that Obama too is invested in companies that outsource American jobs:
OBAMA: When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in countries — in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks. That’s — Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.
ROMNEY: Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in — in Chinese companies.
Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?
OBAMA: I’ve got to say…
ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
OBAMA: You know, I — I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.
ROMNEY: Well, let me give you some advice.
OBAMA: I don’t check it that often.
ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust.
It is true that both Romney — who owns millions of dollars worth of Bain investments — and Obama — whose under $100,000 Illinois state pension plan holdings do mean both have some investment in Sensata. But that detail is quite misleading: Illinois state pensioners each have an average of about $11 invested in Sensata — hardly a significant stake. Romney, on the other hand owns hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Sensata through his foundation and millions of dollars worth of the part of Bain that owns the bulk of the company.
More importantly, Obama never ran Bain. The protesters are not suggesting Romney’s holdings in Sensata are the problem. They are protesting the profits-over-people approach Romney brought to Bain, as he invested in companies that have been called “pioneers in outsourcing.”