Toyota to end production at NUMMI

August 27, 2009 6:46:53 PM PDT
Toyota is pulling out of the new united motor manufacturing plant in Fremont. That means NUMMI will shut down and more than 4,000 workers will lose their jobs.

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Governor Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying: "Let this serve as a reminder that there is nothing of greater importance than to boost economic growth during these difficult economic times."

Workers told ABC7 that the president and CEO of NUMMI talked to them personally on Thursday afternoon and it was with mixed emotions that they even gave him a round of applause.

In a statement, the CEO said that NUMMI is deeply saddened by the impact it will have, and that it will do everything it can to help in the transition.

After months of rumors and waiting, NUMMI was ground zero for a corporate decision and personal emotions.

"It's very sad, we've been here a long time. I'm going to miss this place," said NUMMI employee Imelda Pallen.

The NUMMI plant was established in 1984 as an historic joint venture between Toyota and GM. With GM in bankruptcy, Toyota says it will cease operations in March. Maryo Mendez has worked at NUMMI for 18 years.

"It's like three generations of my family. My dad, me and my daughter, we all work here," said Mendez.

A NUMMI closure means the loss of 4,600 union jobs. Workers say the economic blow is coming at the worst possible time.

"It's very disturbing because jobs are hard to find right now," said NUMMI worker Viney Jackson.

Union leaders say they will continue to fight with the help of state and federal lawmakers who are trying to save the only major auto manufacturing plant on the west coast.

"We have given them 25 Years of quality service and we want to continue to do that give them another 25 years," said union coordinator Jose Hernandez.

At the Union Hall, workers were busy making signs for a rally on Saturday. They say the government has seven months to come up with an incentive package to change Toyota's decision to close.

"We're still hoping, there's still hope that's all I can say right now," said a NUMMI worker.

Some are hanging onto hope, many more are coping with a sense of loss, both emotional and financial and some like Mendez are grateful for what was.

"I'm proud, I was in history I worked here and if they close, you have to find another job, but it's like I'm a part of history," said Mendez.

The NUMMI support rally on Saturday will take place in front of Senator Dianne Feinstein's San Francisco office. The theme ? Toyotas sold here should be made here.

Impact on local businesses

The NUMMI plant is a crucial part of the financial life and health of that community.

Beck's Shoe Store in Fremont has been around since 1919 and it's likely to keep on surviving, but the store is facing a real challenge with the news that the NUMMI plant is closing.

"We have a contract with them so over 4,500 employees get their work shoes from us, so it would impact us significantly," said Beck's manager Oscar Blanco.

Over at Kirby's Sports Bar they are also contemplating life without NUMMI. It's quiet now the plant employees are at work, but this bar is so connected to NUMMI, that it opens very early just to accommodate the graveyard shift.

"It's going to affect us at least 20 percent. Our hours of operation will change from opening at 6:00 a.m. to now will probably open at 10:00 a.m.," said Kirby Sports Bar manager Savino Ruvalcaba.

He expects to layoff two or three workers.

Then there are the hundreds of suppliers all over the state like Injex in Hayward which makes door panels for the Toyota Corolla. Injex employs 400 and almost all of its business is with NUMMI.

The state says as many as 35,000 California jobs are directly or indirectly linked to the auto plant, but Fremont will feel the pain in some distinct ways.

The city of Fremont collects $1.9 million a year in property taxes from the NUMMI plant, 280,000 in sales taxes, business permits and other fees.

Everyone here is hoping another business will take over the plant.

It's not going to be called NUMMI, but maybe it's called Toyota or another major producer of automobiles. That's our new goal," said City Council member Robert Wieckowski.

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