End of the line for NUMMI workers

The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California.
March 31, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There was a mass exodus of workers at the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont on Wednesday, just hours before the final car rolls off the line.

Workers carried out their belongings, said their last goodbyes, and then in a mass exodus, they drove off the NUMMI lot -- many for the very last time.

"They just said this is it," said laid-off worker Ty Yago. "Take your belongings, whatever you got, and go."

The final Toyota Corolla will roll off the assembly line Thursday morning.

"California is just anti-business, anti-worker, so I'm leaving," said a NUMMI employee.

From 4,700 workers, now down to 1,500, many workers were told to return Thursday. But like hundreds of others this week, they expect to be shown the door almost as soon as they walk through it.

Insiders believe it is just a skeleton crew of managers and assembly line workers that will be there for the final hours.

"We knew that seven months ago, that we were going to shut down tomorrow, April 1, would be the last day, but it's here," said United Auto Workers representative Juan Castillo.

A training and employment assistance center across the street from the plant is nearly complete, but thousands of NUMMI workers are leaving their jobs and walking into an uncertain future. After decades on a blue collar assembly line, they do not know what they will do next.

"Look for work, take some time off," said 14-year service parts employee Nino Mendez who was laid off Tuesday.

"I'm just going to probably see what I can do for school," said Yago. "I don't know. I'm not sure yet,"

For some, it is leaving behind a family that will be most difficult. After being let off early Wednesday, one group still wanted to be together; if not on the assembly line, at least on the basketball court.

"We're like family. We've been here like almost every week, in the summer though," said laid-off worker Bo Vath. "Now it is going to be our last probably trip here."

Gathering are expected Thursday for NUMMI workers in many places in Fremont. One bartender told ABC7 he plans to keep his establishment open late Wednesday and to open up again early Thursday morning in order to be there for the workers.

The majority of the work that is left to be done at the plant involves disassembling the factory and clean-up. That is going to be done by about 200 non-union workers who will be there through June 15.


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