An empty classroom at Ohlone College's Newark campus will soon be filled with some of the more than 4,000 NUMMI workers for retraining. Ironically, the classroom was funded by NUMMI during better times when the auto plant helped to support the local community.
NUMMI workers will benefit from Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) just granted by the labor department. They will receive up to 130 weeks of unemployment if enrolled in job retraining.
Additional classrooms are being set up at the United Auto Workers union offices in Fremont.
Many of the NUMMI workers have 10, even 20 years on the job. Job experts say they are well suited to learn new skills and take jobs in clean tech.
"Every time a new car is produced or an upgrade happens, they have to learn how to remake that car, so the ability that they have to learn is a strength that they have," Ohlone College Vice President Leta Stagnaro said.
Now that NUMMI has qualified, suppliers can now apply for the same federal program. That could extend benefits to another 20,000 to 40,000 workers, like ones at Injex in Hayward, who made door panels for NUMMI.
The program also provides a tax credit to help pay for health insurance and will provide up to $12,000 to workers over 50 if their new job pays less.
While happy with this news, UAW Local 2244 President Sergio Santos still has not given up on keeping the plant open.
"We're not going to give up our efforts here locally on doing everything possible to pressure General Motors and Toyota to bring another product line over here," Santos said.
With the union pushing GM hard to keep the plant open, NUMMI workers could be in a real quandary, whether to hold onto that hope of retaining their jobs or pushing ahead and getting new training for a whole new career path.