Unions call Toyota ‘danger to America’

January 28, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100128/AUTO01/1280481

Unions call Toyota ‘danger to America’

Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The United Auto Workers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters protested Toyota Motor Corp. for a second straight day in Washington, calling the embattled automaker "a danger to America."

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and United Auto Workers Vice President Bob King demonstrated outside the Japanese Embassy and called on the Japanese government "to hold Toyota accountable for waging an attack on thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States."

The leaders are complaining about the decision to close the New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., in March — originally a joint venture between General Motors Corp. and Toyota.

The labor leaders also called Toyota "a danger" because of two massive recalls linked to accelerator pedals. On Tuesday, Toyota halted sale of eight popular models because it said it didn’t have a fix in place.

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said the unions protest was "misdirected," since GM had opted to not continue NUMMI — and it was "just not feasible for us to run it separately." While Toyota is working to help with a smooth transition, the new GM and the old company "have made clear they will do nothing." A spokesman for the Japanese embassy, Satoshi Miura, said he was aware of the protest, but had no comment.

The plant closing decision announced in August was momentous for Toyota, a Japanese automaker proud of never having closed an auto plant since its founding in 1937.

But Toyota signaled last year it might quit the venture after its partner at NUMMI for 25 years, General Motors Corp., said in June it would withdraw as part of its bankruptcy. "We deeply regret having to take this action," Toyota’s Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi told reporters.

He said Toyota had learned much from the joint venture with GM, calling NUMMI a "groundbreaking model of U.S.-Japanese collaboration."

This week, UAW workers protested outside the Washington auto show.

The labor leaders delivered a letter from UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles and Hoffa to Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama following the speaking program.

"It’s outrageous that the No. 1-selling car in cash for clunkers was the Corolla, the car that is manufactured in the NUMMI plant," King said.

"After receiving more money in this bailout program than any other company, Toyota is turning its back on American workers and American taxpayers by closing the plant in the state where they sell the most cars in the U.S., shipping these jobs to Japan, and then importing the cars back to the United States for sale."

Hoffa also criticized the decision.

"Toyota management is seeking to move work from auto transport companies that have delivered their new cars and trucks for decades," Hoffa said.

"The loss of this work could lead to the destruction of the largest auto transport companies in the country and the loss of thousands of good, middle class jobs. Toyota promised to support American communities, they’re instead threatening the very types of good jobs that our communities need in this time of economic crisis."

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