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NUMMI employees gather for final farewell

March 27, 2010 6:40:56 PM PDT
Now that California's only auto plant is set to close in a matter of days, NUMMI employees are coming to grips with the reality of their future. Many of them gathered in Livermore Saturday for a final farewell.

With such a shortage of opportunities, it was an emotional time and a bittersweet day. On one hand people are 'worried' about their futures, but on the other they were happy to see one another outside of the plant and outside a place that has been filled with so much anxiety.

Old friends met for what could be the last time, for a very long time. The Fremont-based auto plant shuts down Thursday and workers are already being let go. Those working on Tacoma trucks were laid off Friday and those on the Corolla assembly line will leave next week.

"For me to watch my husband leave, I felt so hollow," NUMMI employee Deborah Barraza told ABC7 News.

The husband and wife team have worked for NUMMI a total of 35 years. Deborah's husband Art was let go Friday, but she will stay on until Thursday.

"So many men that I watched walk out of there, crying so hard," she recalled.

"Just trying to survive and now I don't know how we're going to do it. 11 people in the house... it takes a toll," Art said.

Deborah and Art were the main bread winners in a home filled with four children and five grandchildren. Losing their incomes will be devastating to their family, but many people are sharing the same struggle.

"Trying to find a job that has benefits, especially when you have kids and there isn't nothing out there," said Jose Barajas. "Where am I going to find a job that pays what I was making now?"

NUMMI's re-employment center will help with job placement and training next week, which coincides with the shut down date. Even though half the staff was let go early, everyone will be paid through April 1.

Now, it is the little things NUMMI employees are trying to focus on. This last minute barbeque was planned to bring some happiness during a time that is filled with anything but joy.

"You see us laughing and joking around but inside it's hard because we don't know what we're going to do," Barajas said.

Getting used to their new reality without NUMMI is not easy. 11-year-old Saira Barajas has already been told by her father that things will be different for a while.

"When we go places, have to watch how much we spend and stuff like that," she said.

Many people told ABC7 they are still not sure what their severance package consists of and they say their union has not been much help. Some plan to go to the union hall Sunday to get some answers during their membership meeting.


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