NUMMI closure marks end of era

April 1, 2010 7:06:15 PM PDT
The last major auto manufacturing plant in California is now history and so are the thousands of jobs that disappeared when the NUMMI plant in Fremont shut down. A red Toyota Corolla was the final vehicle to roll off the assembly line and is now headed to a museum in Japan. The closure means a loss of nearly 5,000 jobs at the factory itself and a total of 25,000 including suppliers.

The workers at NUMMI have known since August this would be the final day, but there was really no way to prepare. There were so many hugs, so many tears, and now these workers are out of work and they begin a daunting task of starting a new career search. This comes at a time when many of the skills they have honed at NUMMI over the decades, are now obsolete.

As the final Toyota Corolla in the history of the NUMMI plant rolled off the assembly line, it gave a nod to the productivity of its blue collar workforce -- doing so 20 minutes ahead of schedule at 9:40 a.m.

After eight years on the assembly line, Edgar Tranco was there to witness history.

"It's here there's no turning back anymore, so we have to face the reality that the plant has made the decision to close it," said Tranco.

The 4,700 men and women who built Toyota Corollas and Tacoma Trucks got a severance package, but much of it will be consumed by taxes.

Now, they hope that as they walk out one door, in this economy, they'll be lucky enough to find another one to walk through.

"I'm sad for the young people. I feel sorry for them, but then again, maybe there's something better, you never know," said laid-off NUMMI worker John Jones.

"Hopefully, I can save my house and in two years, should get me my radiology degree," said laid-off NUMMI worker Aly Anand.

After all the tears and hugs, some went straight to a prayer vigil across the street from the plant. Others found another calling at a nearby bar where they shared photos and memories among co-workers they consider family.

"Being number one in building cars and all my friends," said laid-off NUMMI worker Rita Clark.

That's what Clark will miss most after a quarter of a century on the line. She was one of the last people to drive that final car on the very last day at NUMMI.

Despite the impact the laid-off workers and suppliers, the state of California also stands to lose next decade $1 billion in tax revenue.


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