ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It’s been a year since the Sensata plant in Freeport closed and shipped off more than 100 jobs to China. Since then, it’s been tough for many of those who lost their jobs to find work.
From picket lines to picking classes, for Tom Gaulrapp, life after Sensata hasn’t been easy since the plant closed a year ago.
After working as an automated machine operator for about 30 years, Tom is back in school, taking accounting classes at Highland Community College.
“For me the worst part about it at this time of the year is that I don’t have the money to buy really good gifts for my family.”
Tom was one of the 170 workers who lost their jobs to China, sparking a 2-month long protest, which gained national attention.
Since then, Toms says only about 10 of his former co-workers have found new jobs, mostly part time.
“A couple of those just in the last couple of weeks, have gotten these, have gotten Christmas jobs.”
Now, all that’s left of the plant is memories and despite all of the controversy, Tom says he misses the friendships with his coworkers the most.
“It’s like everybody’s gone, so that’s hard because a big part of your support system is the people you work with and when that’s gone it makes it more difficult.”
However, it’s the hard times Tom says that motivates him to move forward.
“We just have to keep going and see what our future holds for us.”
Tom says he plans to graduate with his accounting degree this time next year. He says he hopes next Christmas will be better fro him and his co-workers.
A local group hopes to help former Sensata workers through a new state grant that will allow people to go back to school, or train them to find a new manufacturing job in the Rockford area. We’re told Chrysler and UTC Aerospace are backing the grant to offer jobs.