When Cindy Hewitt thinks about what happened here at this now-defunct laboratory near the Miami River back in 1998, she shivers with disgust.
She was a human resources manager for a medical company called Dade Behring when Bain Capital began tinkering with its bottom line. Under CEO Mitt Romney, Bain shut down a Behring factory in Puerto Rico and sent some of its technicians to Miami. But less than two months later, Bain shut down the Miami lab as well, firing 850 employees including the Puerto Ricans who had just relocated.
"I feel horrible that I was a part of the group that recruited them," says Hewitt, who quit shortly thereafter. "I was used.... Romney's only concern was how to increase the wealth of key investors."
Hewitt blames Romney for "sucking the life blood" out of the local company in order to make a quick $242 million profit. She says that when Dade Behring shut down in 1998, barely three years after it was purchased by Bain, the closure cost the community $30 million in high-end wages and much more in stability.
"It was heartbreaking for me to see families... abused and taken advantage of so a small group of individuals could get a higher return on their investment," she says.
Romney's Florida office could not be reached for comment.
Hewitt's comments were far from spontaneous, however. Her appearance outside Dade Behring's old factory at 1851 Delaware Parkway -- now "A+ Mini Storage" near the new Marlins Stadium -- was orchestrated by Obama's Florida election campaign.
The event was part of a national effort to paint (or reveal, depending on your perspective) Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist. In an Obama campaign video released yesterday, a steelworker whose factory was closed by Bain calls Romney "a vampire."
Florida is one of the most crucial swing states in this fall's election, with the winner likely becoming the next president. Romney is scheduled to visit St. Petersburg tomorrow, with polls showing him and Obama in a dead heat.
Yet, the Obama campaign is going to have to do better if they want Miamians to remember Romney as a corporate raider. Today's event had more speakers (three) than reporters covering it (two).
Perhaps it was the sparse attendance, but state senator Oscar Braynon and Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner did little more than read press packets we assume were drawn up by the Obama campaign. At one point, Braynon even had to ask Hewitt the name of her old company.
Along with Vice President Joe Biden's vacuous visit to the Everglades two weeks ago, the event was a swing and a miss at what should be a fat pitch sitting over the plate: Romney's long record as a corporate parasite.
Unless the Obama campaign does a better job selling the stories of people like Hewitt, we could see a Romney uber-right-wing administration next year.
For her part, Hewitt has never quite recovered from her experience with Bain Capital. After she quit Dade Behring, she volunteered in animal services for several years. Now she runs her own animal shelter, but still doesn't work full-time.
"It was the only time in my life that I did something horribly unethical," she says about working for Dade Behring after Romney/Bain took over and started firing people. "I didn't want to be a part of a team that was destroying people's lives."
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