Autoworkers at the NUMMI plant are happy to get a fresh flavor of government aid, disclosed Tuesday, but they also want federal officials to pursue another initiative: pressure General Motors to bring a new production line to the factory.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday that workers at Fremont’s NUMMI auto factory, slated for shutdown in 2010, are eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance.

"They could be eligible for re-employment services, training, obtaining new occupational skills, and income support in some cases," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in an interview with this newspaper Tuesday.

Workers covered by the trade certification will be contacted by the state of California with instructions on how to apply for individual benefits and services.

"We are moving very quickly to help these workers," Solis said. "We are very concerned and we want to prioritize our efforts to help the NUMMI workers."

Those initiatives are appreciated, but they fail to address the real problem, said Sergio Santos, president of United Auto Workers Local 2244, which represents UAW members at NUMMI.

Some 4,700 workers will lose their jobs when NUMMI closes April 1.

"In our position, this program doesn’t serve our purpose," Santos said. "General Motors should be bringing in a new production line."

UAW members figure the federal government can exercise leverage over GM. After all, over the last year, federal

taxpayers have coughed up $52 billion in cash, loans, and the purchase of 60 percent of GM’s post-bankuptcy equity.

 

"Why not have GM bring in GMC or Buick," Santos said. "It would be a whole lot cheaper to bring in a new production line than government programs."

NUMMI is closing because its joint venture partners, GM and Toyota Motor Corp., both abandoned the factory as auto sales collapsed.

"I don’t get directly involved in this," Solis said, referring to a new production line at NUMMI. "I’m sure those discussions will be taking place over the course of time. This is something we obviously will look at."

It wasn’t immediately clear, though, if the government has talked with GM about an assembly line at NUMMI, when talks might materialize, or which officials would pursue such efforts.

"I understand the UAW’s concerns and we are very sympathetic," Solis said.

Still, to UAW members, the real issue is jobs — the thousands directly employed at NUMMI and the 30,000 at firms that will no longer have NUMMI to supply.

"I’m a little disappointed in the Obama administration," Santos said. "They are focused too much on federal and state aid. They should focus on getting GM to bring in a new production line."