A company went into bankruptcy (Smith Corona) and was sold to another company (Ampad). The new company, 80% of which was owned by Bain Capital, tried to make the old company profitable–and even offered to rehire the old employees at slightly lower wages–but the union (United Paperworkers International Union) insisted on the status quo and went on strike. All of the employees lost their jobs when the company moved to a right-to-work state. So who is to blame for the workers losing their jobs?
Not Mitt Romney, as Newt Gingrich, the DNC, and MSNBC would have you believe, but Randy Johnson, the union vice president who refused to compromise.
Johnson even coordinated with Ted Kennedy to help prolong the strike so as to damage Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Romney was leading in the polls against Ted Kennedy or tied before the story broke. Johnson and Kennedy had even met at an AFL-CIO rally. Johnson admitted after the election that he and Kennedy had stayed in touch about the strike all along. (“Romney’s retribution – and Kennedy’s response,” Robert A. Jordan, The Boston Globe January 8, 1995, Sunday)
The strikers were convinced by Johnson that Romney could solve the strike, despite his leave from Bain to run for Senate. He eventually got a meeting with Romney in a Newton, but they still couldn’t resolve the strike and by then the narrative had been that Romney was seen as coldhearted and heartless, which was the point.
The Boston Globe reported on September 30, 1994:
“I would think the head-man could have some say about it. He has destroyed some families,” said Randy Johnson, the vice-president of the United Paper Workers International Local 154 in an interview yesterday. “There are some lives that are pretty torn up about it. It’s a form of economic blackmail.”
However, the Kennedy ads omit at least one salient fact. One ad starts by saying that Romney’s company fired all 350 workers, including non-union clerical help. It does not note that most of the workers were subsequently rehired, although at reduced wages and benefits.
Kennedy’s aides yesterday insisted they had no responsibility to tell the complete story. “I don’t think we are under an obligation to tell Mitt Romney’s side of the story,” said Tad Devine, a member of the firm that made the ad. “We have 30 seconds in a TV ad. It is not a venue that allows us to elaborate on every single detail of any particular incident.” (“Kennedy raps Romney on Ind. plant strike,” The Boston Globe September 30, 1994)
Johnson was upset that in the corporate restructuring he had his wages reduced from $10.04/hr in 1994 ($15 in today’s wages) to $7.88 ($12 today). Johnson, who had been the top union official at the plant, took the reduction as a demotion and started a strike. He was lucky to have a job. Smith Corona was a company that manufactured typewriters, which were displaced by computers. It filed for bankruptcy in 1996.
Johnson is quick to point out all of the people who lost their jobs at the Indiana plant but he forgets to mention that he was rewarded handsomely for being so obstinate–with a new job at the United Steelworkers Union. Here he is talking on the Ed Show on MSNBC on December 28, 2011. (Most of the workers, by Johnson’s own admission, relocated to Texas and Tennessee, which are right-to-work states.)
He leaves out that Bain, after buying Ampad from the Mead Corporation, had bought three other factories where employment actually grew, from 728 jobs to 850 using the very same techniques that they tried to put in place at the Indiana plant.
Johnson also leaves out that he wrote a letter attacking Romney and that Romney merely responded. As the Ampad plant neared shutdown, The Boston Globe reported that Johnson “scrawled a personal letter” to Romney “pouring out his disappointment” that Romney “had not done enough to settle the strike and save some 200 jobs.” Romney replied that he had privately urged a settlement, but he was advised by the company’s attorneys not to intervene directly. His political interests, he explained, conflict with his business responsibilities.
Johnson tried his hand again in 2002 when Romney ran for governor, lyingly telling Boston Herald.
“They made the decision to close the plant when Romney was back running Bain,” said Johnson. “It still is a mystery to me why he never lifted a finger to settle that strike. We would have just gone away.”(“Plant workers may resurface – Threaten to carry over grudge from ’94 campaign The Boston Herald April 4, 2002)
Randy Johnson is again working with the Democrats to hurt Mitt Romney’s election, this time for the presidency. “I’m going to campaign as hard as I can against him. I can’t help but take some of this personally. I’ve seen 258 workers and their families that were suffering when all Mitt Romney had to do was help,” Johnson told The New York Magazine in July 2011.
Now he is being feted and flown around by the DNC. The DNC flew him into Iowa. Here he is talking to Lawrence O’Donnell on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. Here‘s the video. He was also flown to Boston and New Hampshire and almost always he was called a “union worker,” when he was in fact, the union vice president.
Meanwhile, the left-wing blog, DownWithTyranny, accused Romney of “vulture capitalism” in November 2011. In January 2012, Romney’s rival, Rick Perry, used the very same phrase in an interview with Sean Hannity.