CONTACT: Mike Roth – (916) 444-7170
Statement on the Closing of the Toyota NUMMI Auto Plant by Sergio Santos, President of UAW Local 2244
“This statement on the closing of the Toyota NUMMI auto assembly plant will, by necessity, be my last.
“On Wednesday March 17, 2010, the members of UAW Local 2244 will most likely vote to accept a severance pay package offered by Toyota. The offer mandates a gag order that I believe violates our First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, and our rights to Freedom of Association under the Labor Rights Conventions of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO). Nonetheless, under conditions set by Toyota, after the agreement is ratified, I will no longer be able to comment on the plant closing or its impact on our members.
“While we are pleased that Toyota has increased its severance pay offer by millions of dollars, we are far from pleased that Toyota is going ahead and closing the plant where many of us have worked hard and faithfully giving Toyota the best years of our lives. Our skill has helped NUMMI repeatedly win JD Powers awards for quality, and has made Toyota the number-one automobile company in California and America. We are the ones who helped Toyota adapt their production methods to our American culture. We brought them success and now we have been betrayed.
“As State Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s Blue Ribbon Commission report points out, Toyota had options other than closing the Fremont plant. Toyota could easily have made up for the work lost when GM filed for bankruptcy and stopped production of the Pontiac Vibe—production that amounted to only 15 percent of our output over the past ten years.
“Toyota could choose to produce here an even higher percentage of the Corollas that it sells in California and currently produces abroad. Toyota could follow through with the plan they once promised, and produce the Prius 2 at our plant. And they could produce the future Corolla hybrid and plug in vehicles here. Instead, for the first time in its history, Toyota is forsaking a workforce that consistently produced high quality vehicles for them.
“With all of the recent bad publicity Toyota has earned, and because of the strong support we have received from newspaper editorial boards and from communities and individuals, Toyota sweetened its severance offer and will provide our members with a slightly better cushion to help us survive the next few months. After that we are on our own.
“The tens of thousands who work at the auto parts suppliers and other businesses that support the Toyota NUMMI facility will fare far worse. Toyota has refused to consider any severance benefits for these people, some of whom have worked many years for subcontractors inside of our facility, alongside of us.
“Toyota and its surrogate, NUMMI, will issue its own releases boasting of its generosity and philanthropy, its dedication to its workforce and the communities where it operates. But as the tens of thousands of people who made Toyota number one run out of money and unemployment benefits, as we lose our homes , our health benefits, and ultimately our health, the true toll of Toyota’s decision to abandon vehicle production in California will become clear to everyone.
“Our neighbors’ homes will lose value, our public services will be strained even further, and California taxpayers and businesses will be forced to pick up the tab.
“The true cost will be known as hundreds of thousands of vehicles that should be produced here will now be produced abroad, then shipped back to be sold here, increasing Toyota’s carbon footprint and, by billions of dollars, our trade imbalance.
“Toyota has betrayed us and now they have gagged us. We will be silent in the future, but we deserve better. We are accepting the terms of Toyota’s settlement out of necessity, as a means of securing some limited funds for our families.
“There are people we do wish to thank. First among them is California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the members of his Blue Ribbon Commission, who had the courage and the honesty to research and report on the true economic, social and environmental impact of Toyota’s decision to close its NUMMI facility in Fremont.
“We are proud members of the United Auto Workers and UAW Region 5, and are grateful for the ongoing support that our officers and fellow members have given us throughout this ordeal. Without their aid, counsel and negotiating expertise we would be far worse off.
“We are pleased beyond words for the solidarity shown to us by the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the California State Federation of Labor and central labor councils throughout the state.
“In closing, let me be clear. Toyota is closing the Toyota NUMMI auto assembly plant, not NUMMI, not GM. Toyota is closing our plant and Toyota could still choose to keep it open.”