NUMMI shutting down sooner than expected

March 30, 2010 6:36:49 PM PDT
Hundreds of workers at the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont found out Tuesday was the end of the line for them. Wednesday is expected to be the final day of operation for California's last auto assembly plant. Toyota said it could not keep going after its partner, General Motors left last year.

NUMMI workers know the end is near, but when they are finally shown the door, it still comes as a shock, especially when it is earlier than expected.

"Deactivate your badge, give you your last three checks, given a handshake by the president," former NUMMI worker Jimmy Lechuga said.

After 17 years in NUMMI's quality control, that is how Lechuga's last day on the job went. A handshake, a pay check, and then out the door. Lechuga is one of about 500 workers who showed up Tuesday morning and found out it was the last day.

"We kind of knew, foreshadowing the production numbers, we all knew pretty much they wanted to shut it down earlier," Lechuga said.

The last Toyota truck rolled off the assembly line last week.

Workers will be paid through April 1, the plant's official last day, but sources inside NUMMI tell ABC7 most workers have been told Wednesday is the end of the road, one day ahead of schedule.

The factory has been scaling down production in recent weeks and there are no longer enough supplies to make more cars.

Neighbors around the Fremont plant are saying goodbye anyway they can.

"Maybe there'll be a little work Thursday morning, but most likely we'll just come in, wait for our turn to be up and processed out," NUMMI employee Ed Caires said.

As the final cars move off the lot, many workers wonder what their next career move will be. The county re-employment center gave workers an informational DVD to let them know there are services available and that they have skills to survive in the workforce.

It has been nine years at NUMMI for Jonathan Smith. He showed up for the night shift expecting to clock in as his day-side friends clocked out but learned they had already left, for good.

"I won't be able to see them like I thought I was, but I said my goodbyes last week, just in case something like this would happen," he said.


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