It was the early 1990s, and the 750 men and women at Georgetown Steel were pumping out wire rods at peak performance. They had an abiding trust in management's ability to run a smart company. That allegiance was rewarded with fat profit-sharing checks. In the basement-wage economy of Georgetown, South Carolina, Sanderson and his co-workers were blue-collar aristocracy.
"We were doing very good," says Sanderson, president of Steelworkers Local 7898. "The plant was making money, and we had good profit-sharing checks, and everything was going well."
What he didn't know was that it was about to end. Hundreds of miles to the north in Boston, a future presidential candidate was sizing up Georgetown's books.
At the time, Mitt Romney had been running Bain Capital since 1984, minting a reputation as a prince of private investment. A future prospectus by Deutsche Bank would reveal that by the time he left in 1999, Bain had averaged a shimmering 88 percent annual return on investment. Romney would use that success to launch his political career.