NUMMI workers wait to learn their fate

July 26, 2009 6:53:18 PM PDT
Thousands of jobs are on the line at Fremont's NUMMI auto plant. Sunday, anxious workers packed a meeting in hopes of learning more about their fate.

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Last month, General Motors pulled out of the joint venture and now Toyota is pressed to make some hard decisions.

Rumors are flying at the NUMMI plant about workers' fate. Many feel left in the dark about the future of their jobs. At this point, only one thing is certain --there are some very nervous employees.

"This is the job that I've done for pretty much all of my adult life," NUMMI employee Jamey Hummer said.

After 18 years at the NUMMI plant, Hummer, 38, is now faced with the daunting possibility of having to start all over again. He has already been through it once before with his own father.

"My dad actually worked here when it was GM when they closed and that wasn't a good time; it was tough on the family to start over again, and now we're looking at possibly doing that all over again," Hummer said.

It was their day off from the factory lines but half of the more than 4,000 plant workers showed up for a union meeting, hoping they might find out there is still something to be hopeful for.

"It's almost like death insurance, you don't want to think about it," 18-year employee Clyde Allen said.

Toyota says the fate of the Fremont plant has yet to be decided. But news reports last week quoted people familiar with Toyota's plan saying the auto maker will shut down the plant.

If that happens, it would be the first time ever that Toyota has closed a major factory at home or abroad.

The consequences would be far reaching. It is estimated that 30,000 jobs around the state are directly tied to the plant.

"One of the worst things to do is probably negotiate a plant closure and that's something that we really don't want to do," United Auto Workers spokesperson Javier Contreras said.

The United Auto Workers local is in bargaining talks with Toyota; the union's contract expires in a matter of days. Some workers hope talk of a plant closure is simply a negotiations ploy.

"I feel if everybody goes to work and does their part, there's no reason why Toyota should leave," 12-year employee Pedro Barajas said.

But others, like eight-year NUMMI worker Vicki Anaya, have given up on hope.

"It's a wait and see game; lot of prayer, lot of prayer from everybody," Anaya said.

With Toyota losing $4.4 billion last year and the NUMMI plant failing to make a profit for the past 17 years, analysts say the writing is on the wall for NUMMI.

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