Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Georgetown

Boston-based Bain Capital LLC more than doubled its money on GS Industries Inc. – the former parent company of Georgetown Steel – under Mitt Romney’s leadership in the 1990s, even as the steel manufacturer went on to cut more than 1,750 jobs, shuttered a division that had been around for 100 years and eventually sank into bankruptcy.
Bain Capital spent $24.5 million to acquire GS Industries in 1993, according to an investment prospectus for the company that was obtained by the Los Angeles Times and reviewed by The Sun News. By the end of that decade, Bain Capital estimated its partners had made $58.4 million off its investment in GS Industries, according to the prospectus.
Bain Capital’s partners also earned multi-million dollar dividends from GS Industries and annual management fees of about $900,000. But by the time GS Industries filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, it owed $553.9 million in debts against assets valued at $395.2 million. 
(David Wren, Myrtle Beach Sun News, 1/14/12)

Read more here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2012/01/13/2599863/romneys-bain-capital-made-millions.html#storylink=cpy

Georgetown, South Carolina is a mill town; one of the few left in the United States where goods are actually produced and not just assembled.  It is the home of International Paper and ArcelorMittal Steel, and the sounds and smells generating from the sites are an actual comfort, not just to the townspeople but to anyone who detests the thought of factory shutdowns and an idle workforce.

Harbor - Georgetown, SC
  At first glance, Georgetown looks like almost any other town across the country--a main drag dotted with fast foods and box stores and gas stations, neighborhoods rich and poor and somewhere in between (The happy surprise in Georgetown, if you venture off the highway, is its carefully preserved historic district  and beautiful harbor)--but since Mitt Romney's run for the presidency and the revelations of the destructive, worker-eating practices of Bain Capital, the company he once headed, you might see Georgetown in a different light.  You might see it as yet another poster child showing the effects of bullying outside influences with voracious appetites fed largely by avarice and greed.

ArcelorMittal Steel Mill, Georgetown, SC
 The Georgetown steel mill, it turns out, was one of Bain Capital's many victims.  Who knew?  Not middle managers. Not the union leaders. Not the laid-off workers.  Not even, apparently, anyone who reported the stories of bankruptcies and shutdowns throughout the years, essentially blaming the problems on the Chinese and the tumult of the times.

During the upheaval of American labor over the past few decades, Georgetown's mill took several direct hits.  China was, in fact, producing cheaper (albeit lower quality) steel.  Jobs were, in fact, being sent by ruthless Americans to cheaper markets overseas.  Domestic car sales had declined and so had the need for the particular steel products coming out of Georgetown. No one saw the need to dig further to find a deeper, underlying reason for the failures.  On the surface, there were plenty.

This isn't the first time the press has descended on Georgetown.  I went to the union headquarters yesterday and met with the Steelworkers local president, James Sanderson. (Who told me just minutes into our introduction, "I'm going to be on Ed Schultz tonight!"  And he was.  Good going, James!)


Sanderson said when the Democrats came to nearby Myrtle Beach for a debate in 2008, the candidates got wind of a shutdown at the mill. They all rushed to Georgetown so they could each stand in front of the forlorn, shuttered factory and make promises to the hundreds of unemployed potential voters there was never a chance in hell they would be able to keep.

Nobody knew then what role Bain Capital had played in the inevitable failure of Georgetown Steel.  They bought it and gutted it and profited from their own piracy and nobody knew it had even happened that way until Mitt Romney decided to run for president and the digging began.

As David Wren reports in the Sun-News article:

Less than a year after taking a controlling interest in the Georgetown plant, Bain Capital cut the employees’ profit-sharing plan twice – lowering the plan’s hourly rate from $5.60 an hour to $1.25 per hour. Most of the workers didn’t learn about the cuts until they received their paychecks. The profit-sharing checks eventually disappeared altogether.

Sanderson, in a September 2000 report in The Sun News, called Bain Capital anti-labor and said “they’ve forced a labor dispute at every location” during contract negotiations.  Sanderson agrees that China’s cheap steel imports on the American marketplace hurt the Georgetown mill’s production and profitability.

“But if they [Bain Capital] had only invested in the mill instead of taking everything from it, we would have been able to sustain that [dumping] like we had in the past,” he said.

John Ethridge, a retired Georgetown Steel worker, said Bain Capital “treated us like dirt.”

“They brought a bunch of people in here who thought they knew how to do our job, but they had no idea what they were doing,” Ethridge said, adding that needed equipment and plant upgrades were often delayed or ignored.

Ethridge, who worked at the Georgetown mill for 35 years, said Bain Capital was more interested in how much money it could take from the plant rather than investing anything into it.

By the time GS Industries filed for bankruptcy protection, the number of employees worldwide had been cut by more than half.

Read more here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2012/01/13/2599863/romneys-bain-capital-made-millions.html#storylink=cpy

After decades of  uncertainty, of lay-offs and down-sizing, of bankruptcies and shut-downs, of revolving-door ownerships, the American company formerly known as Georgetown Steel is now foreign owned and called ArcelorMittal.  It's up and running again, on a much smaller scale, but running nonetheless.

ArcelorMittal scrapyard - Georgetown
 The union is still in place and James Sanderson is still union president.  Their four-year contract, equitable by any labor standards, is up in September.  It's anybody's guess about where they'll be heading, in light of the stepped-up efforts by South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley to make sure South Carolina remains a Right-to-Work state. (Precipitated by the actions of the National Labor Relations Board when it went after Washington state-based Boeing for moving one of their units to South Carolina, allegedly to get out from under unions. The action was dropped in December, but I'm guessing Gov. Haley isn't going to forget it.)

In South Carolina the sun shines bright on Romney and Bain Capital these days and I know at least a few people who are basking in it, trying to make the most of it (James Sanderson, for one; his boss Leo Gerard for another,  his activist son Jamie for another; and me).  But from afar comes Robert Reich, also speaking on The Ed Show, not about Georgetown but about the troubles at Steel Dynamics, an Indiana steel mill taken over and victimized by Bain Capital.

He explains in pure Reich-style what Bain Capitalism really is:

Bain Capitalism is not product capitalism, it's financial capitalism.  It's moving money.  It's getting as much money from the public sector as possible.

Financial capitalism is not real capitalism.  It doesn't create new jobs, it doesn't put people to work, it actually ends up reducing the number of jobs.  it displaces people, it puts risks on average working people, it lowers wages.  Financial capitalism is what we've had in this country for the last two or three decades and it's all centered on Wall Street.  It's not about making good jobs with good wages and making things.
Last night during the Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, Gov. Nikki Haley was seen smiling and nodding vigorously when Rick Perry jawed on about "South Carolina's war with the federal government", as if it was 1865 all over again.  How does Rick the Wretched think we got to this place?  Wasn't he the one who coined the term, "vulture capitalism"?  Can you run for president or governor without understanding the necessary symbiosis between the Fed and the states in order to combat and destroy the Bains of the world and save your cities, your states, your country?

Well, yes, you can run but should you win?  In a sane world, you shouldn't.  In a sane world you couldn't.  (Quick reminder: Mitt Romney, the founder of Bain Capital, is about to be anointed top nominee for president by the Republicans.)  That's our national nightmare these days, that total disregard by our leaders of a pervasive evil forced on us via the private sector despite absolute, indisputable proof that Bain Capital is just one among hundreds of companies whose only reason for existing is to destroy the fabric of America for profit .  That malignant neglect is the reason the fight goes on and the bad guys keep getting away.

In a free market economy as defined by this new bunch of "patriots", the only bad guys are the good guys.  Apparently that's us and we're toast.

Shack and water tower in the shadow of the mill - Georgetown, SC

3 comments:

  1. There is a lot of information you have presented in this post; perhaps the best prism through which to view what Bain Capital is, and was. It is a wonder to me that the Republicans have him in the top spot on the polls. Is is possible that the Republicans in the state are ignoring the record? Or, more likely, they hate Obama so much that they do not care about such inconvenient things as "facts".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kitty, I think you're right that they hate Obama that much. This is going to be a vicious year, no matter who wins the GOP nomination. It looks like it will be Romeny and I'm already seeing arguments that he wasn't involved with Bain Capital when all this went down at Georgetown. That's not true. He was in the thick of it.

    Bain bought Georgetown in 1993 and Romney was the head honcho until 1999, when he went to work for the Olympics. Georgetown Steel didn't file for bankruptcy until two years later--that part is true--but by then the damage had been done. He is a slug and the more I see of him the more I want to work to keep Obama right where he is.

    We're going to have to work to give the Dems more power in congress, too, but we can't do it unless they get off their duffs and work for US! Nobody's going to vote for them otherwise. Dummies.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your input and want to keep this as open as possible, so I will watch for and delete comments that are spam, vicious or obscene. (Also, please note that I've switched to Disqus for comments. Hope this clears up any commenting problems. If not, please let me know.)