Officials meet over NUMMI closure

Officials meet over NUMMI closure

Friday, November 13, 2009
By Mark Matthews

Auto workers at the soon to close New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. plant in Fremont had their chance today to tell Washington what help they need. The plant is due to close next spring and Friday members of the president’s auto task force came to the Bay Area to listen.

 

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The NUMMI plant, which opened 25 years ago with the unveiling of the Nova, the first joint Japanese American automobile, has just 5 months left before its due to shut down.

"Yes, I remember that, and everybody was excited, it was a new start," United Auto Workers member Victor Quesada. Quesada, 60, worked the Nova line in 1984. "What they told us was, ‘Everybody just has to go to work and they’d have a lifetime job."

 

Quesada was one of 20 members of the UAW union at Friday’s meeting. Ed Montgomery, President Barack Obama’s Director of Recovery for Auto Communities, headed the forum.

Montgomery told reporters there are a lot of things the government could do to help.

"We want to make sure they have access to unemployment insurance if that becomes necessary, that they have access to job replacement assistance, that they have access to job training," he said.

But he added that Friday, he was just here to listen.

"Part of the reason for being here is to hear from the local community about their needs and the way they want to chart a path forward and to respond to that local effort, so the way we’re seeing this is a bottom up effort," he said.

But the head of the local UAW union said what workers want is for the plant to stay open.

"We’re going to do everything possible to keep this plant running, everything possible, and we’re not going to give up, we have a petition drive going on," Sergio Santos said.

Santos says the union plans to collect 50,000 signatures.

"We have a goal to get those signatures by the end of the month and we want to let Toyota know we’re not done," he said.

But when California lawmakers wrote to Toyota asking the company to stay open, they never heard back.

"We didn’t really get the response we were looking for," Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said.

A spokesperson for NUMMI says it is just not realistic to keep the plant open.

"I mean look at the economy&the economy, we just took the biggest hit since the Depression, automotive sales have not recovered," Greg Young said.

When asked what he will need when the plant closes, Quesada went back to keeping the plant open.

"I think it’s a bad thing, it’s not very wise to close that plant because the cars, nobody can give me a reason why they’re closing," he said.

Friday, Toyota issued the following response about the closing of the NUMMI plant:
"Toyota’s decision to end its production contract with NUMMI was difficult but necessary, given General Motors’ actions to abandon the joint venture, which severely undermined the economic viability of the plant and precipitated this situation. We remain strongly committed to making vehicles where we sell them and to maintaining a substantial manufacturing presence in the U.S. We employ several thousand people in California and look forward to continuing to serve our customers in the state.

"Toyota appreciates all federal, state and local efforts to help NUMMI team members achieve a successful transition. While NUMMI is an independent company, we will continue to work cooperatively with NUMMI to help provide transition support to team members, suppliers and the community. It is unfortunate that neither GM — our partner in NUMMI for 25 years — nor our current partner, Motors Liquidation Company, has indicated that it will do the same."

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