ATTLEBORO - Workers from a Sensata Technologies plant in Illinois and other companies affiliated with Bain Capital brought their case against offshoring manufacturing jobs to Sensata's headquarters Wednesday, including one Illinois worker who delivered copies of a petition to a company executive.
About 170 jobs at the Sensata plant in Freeport, Ill., are scheduled to be eliminated by the end of the year, once manufacturing operations are moved to China.
Sensata Technologies is partly owned by Bain, once headed by former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I feel like I've been on a rollercoaster," said Cheryl Randecker, 52, who has worked at the Freeport plant for 33 years and spent a month in China in 2010 training workers there to take over some of the plant's other jobs.
"My emotions have gone up and down," she said. "To think that it's all coming to an end now is very upsetting."
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."
The protesters were positioned outside a barricade 200 yards from the entrance to the headquarters building.
A caravan carrying the demonstrators was not allowed on Sensata property, but Sensata Vice President Jacob Sayer did meet with Dot Turner, a Freeport employee for 43 years who is due to lose her job in November.
The workers initially had asked for a meeting with company CEO Tom Wroe.
Company officials would not say whether Wroe was at the Attleboro plant.
Turner presented Sayer with a petition from the workers asking to be given more than the 26 weeks of severence pay they said were offered. They said the amount is less than they would have received from the plant's former owner, Honeywell.
However, a Sensata spokeswoman said the workers are being given the same severance and benefits they would have received from Honeywell.
Romney, who left his leadership position at Bain before Sensata acquired the Freeport business in 2010, was the focus of several signs bearing a likeness of the former governor inside a circle with a cross through it.
A yellow school bus transporting the workers carried the headline: "Stop The Romney Economy."
The employees say they have been struggling to publicize their plight for several months, including writing letters to both Romney and Wroe, making appearances outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and conducting a bus tour of sites associated with Bain Capital and the Republican presidential candidate.
Neither Romney nor Wroe responded to requests for interviews, according to Jason Stephany, a spokesman for the Massachusetts group MassUniting which has been working with the employees.
In Attleboro, Sensata's predecessor Texas Instruments once employed more than 4,000 people before manufacturing jobs were sent to other worldwide sites. The company now employs fewer than 1,000 locally.
Employees who spoke outside the Sensata headquarters said corporate greed was behind the outsourcing of jobs.
"We only want to make a living and pay our bills, just like everyone else does," said Mary Kerr, a Freeport worker for six years whose husband also worked at the plant until recently. "They're not moving our jobs because they're losing money. They want to make an extra dollar, and it's not fair."
Kerr said Freeport has been decimated by the offshoring of thousands of factory jobs.
"I hope and pray Romney does not become president because what you see here is going to be a ripple effect across the country," she said. "There's going to be nothing left."
Turner said her brief meeting with Sayer was polite and that he accepted the petitions she brought.
Sensata spokeswoman Linda Megathlin said company officials have met with Freeport workers on several occasions since it finalized purchase of the plant in January 2011, and that the company has been candid with them since that time concerning its plans to move the business overseas.
She acknowledged that the transition has been "difficult" for employees.
"Our company needs to compete and adapt to a global environment in order to insure the health and longevity of our business," she said.
About two-thirds of the company's revenues come from non-U.S. sources, Megathlin said.
Following Wednesday's Attleboro appearance, the employees and their supporters were planning to visit the Boston offices of Bain Capital and Romney for President headquarters on today.