Leaders to join workers at NUMMI rally

August 20, 2009 6:42:25 PM PDT
Politicians and employees at Fremont's NUMMI plant are stepping up their campaign to keep the state's sole auto plant open. GM's bankruptcy ended the 25-year long joint venture with Toyota, and Toyota is said to be close to a decision on whether it will remain open.

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The message was clear. NUMMI workers like making Toyotas and they want to keep their jobs. This rally was a chance to show much this means to their families.

"If they close the plant down, they'll be taking away from my family also. There is no other place," said NUMMI worker Lester Franklin on having to find another job if NUMMI were to close.

"I'm there for my kids, for the future, raising them, my dad works there. He's been there since 1984, and he supported me and supported my sister, put her through college and I want to do the same for my kids," said NUMMI assembly line worker Luis Mendoza.

They were joined by the mayors of Fremont and San Jose and by state officials.

"Hey Toyota, this is your biggest market. Don't upset California, don't lose 35,000 jobs here in the state," said Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.

"This is part of the struggle, how do we maintain jobs? How do we maintain a quality standard of living. I just want to be supportive of the workers here who are trying to keep their jobs," said California Controller John Chiang.

Ultimately, will union wages be a major factor? Union president Sergio Santos claims NUMMI pay is on a par with Toyota's non-union workers in the south.

"It's about the same, non union or union, all around North America," said Santos.

Our research indicates that until the recent downturn, Toyota paid non-union workers a yearly profit-sharing bonus of $6,000 to $8,000. That puts hourly wages on a par with UAW pay. However, union benefits are greater.

Will all of this have any impact on Toyota's final decision? UC Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken, an auto industry expert, thinks yes because Toyota has spent years trying to be a creator of jobs in the U.S. and would not necessarily want the reputation of taking away thousands of them.

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