NUMMI workers surprised by early shutdown

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The shutdown at the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont is underway as the last pickup truck is close to coming off the assembly line. Some workers were caught by surprise.

It was an emotional day for thousands of NUMMI workers as the shutdown begins.

Bobby Dell does quality control for the Tacoma truck line. Thursday was his final shift after 22 years.

"Right now when I walk through there, everybody that sees me, before they say, 'Hey Bobby, how are you doing?' they're going to walk up to me with their hands out and want to give me a hug because this is it," Dell said.

The official shutdown is next Thursday, but the truck line is winding down. Plastics and parts were also shut down because their work is done.

Julia Martinez, a 22-year veteran of the plant came to work Thursday not knowing it would be her last day.

"It caught me by surprise; I didn't know and I wasn't prepared for it and it's just very overwhelming because I didn't know," she said.

Melissa Genberg is working her last shift Thursday night, but she made a point to come in early to say good-bye to co-workers she calls family.

"After working there so many years, they're like a family; so you want to come down and say good-bye to them, even if they were first shift, second shift, it didn't matter," Genberg said.

NUMMI says the Corolla car line will stay in production for another week. Those laid off early will still be paid until April 1.

Many of those driving out of the plant are doing so for the last time.

"It's hard to leave a job like this with benefits and good pay, but, you know, it's life, we'll move on and take it in stride," 22-year NUMMI employee Barry Kitsch said.

Rolando Buertas is becoming the second generation auto worker in his family to lose his job by a plant closure.

"This happened to my father when General Motors closed and it's going to happen to me, but that's the way it is," he said.

In these waning hours, bitterness has surfaced toward NUMMI's one-time joint venture partner General Motors.

"General Motors, they owe us, they owe everybody in that plant; Toyota did their part, NUMMI did their part," 24-year employee John Lopez said.


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