NUMMI hiring despite shutdown reports

August 21, 2009 6:45:41 PM PDT
There is a curious development at California's only auto plant, in Fremont. Even though Toyota might shutdown NUMMI soon, it's hiring new workers and boosting production. The question is why?

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It could be good for Toyota or it could be good for the union workers, but no one knows for sure. The Toyota Corolla has been the number one choice for people who traded in their clunkers, and that car is being assembled at the NUMMI plant.

ABC7 News has learned that NUMMI stepped up production and has hired more than 100 UAW temporary workers to meet the demand, but NUMMI workers are concerned that when cash for clunkers ends, so will their jobs.

NUMMI hiring despite shutdown reports

Ron Lopez and his wife both work at NUMMI. If Toyota closes the NUMMI plant next month, Lopez said they'll lose their jobs and their home.

"We have a mortgage like everybody else, and being a two-income family we've talked to a realtor about a worst case scenario and we don't want to be caught if this place closes down," said Lopez.

Ron has reason to hope for the best as 130 new temporary UAW employees have been hired to start a shift at the NUMMI plant. It's been operating with just one shift for the past eight months.

The plant is now running full-time and it produces eight Corollas a day because of cash for clunkers.

UAW local president Sergio Santos said they have already reduced their backlog of unsold cars, and things are looking up.

"Inventory about three to four months ago was about six months out, and now we are probably to about 30, 45 days out," said Santos.

While it's good news that shift are running from three to five days a week and cars are rolling off the lines, no one knows if Toyota will keep the plant open after a soft deadline set for August 31 or close it down and move Toyota production elsewhere.

Javier Contreras is the chief bargaining agent for the union.

"The information we are getting from Toyota are non, whatsoever," said Contreras.

Workers at the plant aren't the only ones concerned about the possible plant closure and its loss of 4,600 jobs. Union and business officials say that more than 30,000 other jobs depend on the plant and its workers' income.

Restaurants will lose clientele.

"Probably 15, 20 percent," said a nearby restaurant owner.

Injex, which made parts for the now lost Pontiac brand laid off 40 employees. It is now making parts for Toyota.

Kirby's restaurant stands to lose half of its employees if the plant closes, and tens of thousands of dollars of daily sales.

"It will be difficult for me to take care of my mother and my family," said

Rosemary Montiel, losing her 17-year NUMMI job will mean not being able to support nine family members.

"I know that if I go looking for another job, and there is another individual that is is 20 younger than me, they will probably get the job," said Montiel.

Union officials said they will try to keep Toyota in Fremont and make whatever deal they can to keep them. Sacramento is also giving Toyota some tax incentives, but Toyota is keeping mum on its intentions.

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