Mounting campaign to save NUMMI plant

June 30, 2009 6:58:31 PM PDT
An effort is underway to convince Toyota to keep Fremont's NUMMI auto plant going, even without General Motors. GM's decision to end a joint venture with Toyota puts more than 4,000 jobs on the line.

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Tuesday, the United Autoworkers Union issued a statement saying its members "...Will continue to stay positive during these difficult times. It may take some time before the future of NUMMI and the UAW is determined."

Business and community leaders are mounting a pro-active campaign to let Toyota know its future is in Fremont.

"We need to go back to Japan again, which we have been every year, and impress upon them that this is the place for them to be. The innovation's here, the technology's here, and more importantly, their product is being purchased here," says Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

Fremont knows the pain of an auto plant closure. In 1982, 6,000 GM workers lost their jobs. A year later, Ford's assembly plant in Milpitas shut down.

One of the laid off GM workers was Roy Bertuccelli. He works now as a workforce development specialist and could be helping NUMMI workers if that facility closes. He remembers the 1982 plant closure as if it were yesterday.

"There was an immediate response to the needs of the workers and I foresee at least that much happening this time, should the plant end up having to lay anyone off," says Bertuccelli.

NUMMI says it will take a long time to determine its future. GM's joint venture stake will be going through the bankruptcy court. If it closes, there are no similar jobs today for more than the 4,000 employees.

"I think that's going to take some time for people to resolve with themselves how are they going to take those skills and move on," says Patti Castro from the Workforce Investment Board.

However, NUMMI's reputation for teamwork and training may help them find jobs in the emerging green tech sector.

"As far as the transferrable skills and the work ethic of the people that work at NUMMI, they'll be highly valued by any employer should they become available," says Bertuccelli.

As for convincing Toyota to keep NUMMI going, labor cost could be an issue.

"California has something to offer both in its workforce and its leading edge in terms of technology companies, and we believe in the end, that will override the cheapest cost alternatives," said Bruce Kern from the Economic Development Alliance.

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