NUMMI workers accept severance package

The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California.
March 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
It is a deal NUMMI workers never wanted, but could not afford to refuse. Wednesday night union members overwhelmingly approved a severance package that comes with the shutdown of the auto plant in just two weeks.

GM pulled out of the joint venture last year. Toyota will officially close the doors at NUMMI March 31. Late Wednesday, UAW workers packed union headquarters to vote on a severance package that many say they simply could not refuse.

Toyota's final offer overwhelmingly passed.

About 4,700 union workers went to their headquarters in Fremont to vote on an offer that Toyota hopes will do two things: keep workers on the job until the plant closes and also keep the union from demonstrating or speaking out against Toyota.

Wednesday morning, the president of UAW Local 2244, Sergio Santos, walked to the edge of the union's compound and said this statement would be his last.

"Under conditions set by Toyota, after the agreement is ratified, I will no longer be able to comment on the plant closing or its impact on our members," said Santos.

The union has been highly critical of Toyota's decision to stop ordering cars and trucks from the NUMMI plant. The union has held demonstrations at Toyota dealerships and at car shows. And now, as part of the severance deal, the union members must agree to stop criticizing the company.

"We will be silent in the future, but we deserve better," said Santos.

The union says it was able to negotiate a $28 million increase from Toyota's initial offer.

For workers who stay until the very end, the minimum bonus is $31,000, workers with 20 years experience who remain until the end will get between $60,000 and $70,000. Once you take out estimated taxes though, those "going away" checks do not look quite as good. The minimum bonus will be whittled down to $18,290 and the higher end bonuses will be anywhere from $35,400 to $42,000.

"A lot of us looked at it. Nobody likes the idea, nobody. I mean obviously we know something's wrong, but what can you do?" said UAW member Bobby Dell.

"Well we don't have a choice right now and it is better that we say yes," said UAW member Tammy Taylor.

Workers are expected to ratify the agreement.

"It's OK, they gave us a pretty good deal, they could've gave us nothing," said UAW member Melanie Smith.

Nothing is what several hundred non-union workers will be getting according to the UAW and the union workers ABC7 spoke with.

"They're going to walk out of here with nothing, all they get is unemployment," said Smith.

For its part, NUMMI is not talking about the deal except to say there is no gag order, the union simply agreed to stop disrupting Toyota's business. Toyota has said in the past it is willing to pay bonuses to keep workers building quality cars and trucks until the end of the month.

Earlier, the union told its members to take the deal.

"And they're telling us 'We got you this, this is what we did for you.' I'm happy though we got something, we're not walking out of here with nothing, so I'm appreciative of that," said Dell.

Also under the terms, union members who have been on leave since October, lose their seniority.

Marty Sanchez has worked at NUMMI for 20 years. He had surgery and has been out on medical leave since May.

"Because I have not been there in the last few months of operation of the plant, I won't receive the bulk of the payout," said Sanchez.

Sanchez says 20 years should earn him a $55,000 package. Instead, he expects to get about $11,000.

"I think the whole thing is not fair," said UAW member Ana Magna.

A similar sentiment is felt, in Hayward at Injex Industries. Molded plastic parts specifically for Toyotas are made in Hayward and 387 people will be laid off the day NUMMI closes.

"After 17 years, suddenly all this happening. It's sad and surprising," said Injex employee Miguel Martinez.

Injex is also offering employees a severance package, but managers would not give specifics.


Load Comments