$5.9M federal grant issued for ex-NUMMI workers


This Friday will be a big day because the plant, the former NUMMI factory, hasn't produced a vehicle in over two years and it's a far different vehicle, too. It's an all-electric sedan. However, this is also a story about disappointment.

The signage says Tesla in Fremont and a new chapter begins Friday as the new model "S" sedan rolls off the line, but there are ghosts here, too. Nearly 5,000 workers were laid off when NUMMI shut down and only about 1,000 have found new jobs.

"That's why I'm here, most of the time because I cannot find anything," said "Rosie," a Jobless NUMMI supplier employee.

Rosie didn't want her face shown because of the embarrassment of going two years and two months without finding a job. She shows up almost daily at the NUMMI Re-Employment Center in Fremont to refresh her resume and to apply for jobs. About 1,400 others who signed up for help at the center are in the same situation.

The Department of Labor just released an emergency $5.9 million grant to keep these job centers open, extending their closure until September. Rosie had hoped to work at Tesla.

"They just interviewed me one time about a month ago, and they never called me back," said Rosie.

Tesla is off to a running start. The Model "S" is sold out until November. Tesla said it would not do interviews at this time to answer our questions, or let us visit the factory because it's tied up preparing for Friday's launch day, but it's getting criticism for not hiring many former NUMMI employees. The job center estimates Tesla has hired only 20 or 25.

"If you look at that ratio of how many people are being hired, considering that the Federal Government has provided a half a billion dollars for them to operate, I think it's a disservice," said Sal Lopez, a job match manager.

Tesla does appear to have a highly-automated assembly line. A video Tesla posted online shows how bodies are painted in the Fremont facility. Its output is also considerably lower than NUMMI's and that could mean fewer employees.

The emergency federal grant issued Wednesday runs out in September and with 1,400 unemployed workers in Fremont, and 300 more in San Jose still unemployed, the job centers helping NUMMI workers are facing a real challenge.

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