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March 4, 2010

California Factory Closing - HUGE Impact - Steps You Can Take

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Toyota is planning on closing the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. NUMMI auto-manufacturing plant in Fremont, CA on March 31. The immediate effect is a loss of 5,000 jobs. But, as with any factory closing, the effects ripple out well beyond the immediately obvious. The public has put up a lot of money to have the plant here, and the costs this closing will put on the public will be enormous.

Toyota takes off with a ton of cash, we pay the costs, it's the way the system is set up -- by us.

The effect? From The California Labor Federation, Toyota NUMMI Closure Would Kill Jobs, Destroy Communities,

...more than 5,000 autoworkers at the plant will be out of work, and another 1,500 Teamsters who transport the cars from the NUMMI plant to the dealerships will also be jobless. Additionally, as many as 50,000 workers at hundreds of businesses in California are completely dependant on NUMMI to stay afloat, from the suppliers that manufacture car parts to the restaurants where the NUMMI workers go for lunch and even the shoe stores where the plant workers buy their specialized work boots.

Toyota has benefited tremendously from this plant, as well as receiving state and federal money. A study released yesterday by the NUMMI Blue Ribbon Commission says,

The United States is Toyota’s largest market in the world. California accounted for almost 18 percent of Toyota’s U.S. sales and 5 percent of the automaker’s global sales in 2007. Toyota led California sales with a quarter of the market, more than the combined share of General Motors and Ford in 2009.

. . . Toyota has benefitted considerably from federal and state programs over the years. ... the automaker captured first place in “Cash for Clunkers” sales ... In a similar program in Japan at about the same time, U.S.-based automakers were excluded initially.

California has invested heavily in NUMMI ... The state has given NUMMI more than $18 million for training
since the plant’s inception... Millions more have gone to NUMMI suppliers for training. Major infrastructure improvements have been done explicitly for the plant and to meet its needs. The Port of Oakland, for example,
was dredged 12 years ago to accommodate the kinds of cargo ships the plant requires at a cost of $410 million.

When the plant closes the public takes up the costs -- paying unemployment, for example, for the up-to-50,000 people expected to become unemployed. The Federal Government will pick up the costs of the workers' pensions.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced yesterday it will assume responsibility for the underfunded pension plan of the 5,800 employees and retirees of New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI), pending the plant's liquidation by the end of the month.

Just as I wrote this week about Whirlpool, this is the way WE have chosen to make the system work. We can and must change the way the system works.

This is what companies today do. It is just the way the game is played, the way the system works. ... There aren't "good" or "bad" companies; ANY company will do these things because if they don't they lose out to the companies that do. BECAUSE WE LET THEM. In fact, by letting this happen we make it happen because, as I just wrote, if one company doesn't the next will, and the company that doesn't loses out. The system.

So here is what we have to do. We have to change the rules to stop these jobs from leaving the country.

We are going to have to put our foot down, as a people, and take control of the system to make it work for us. This is not only something we can do, it is our responsibility to do this.

Call Congress and demand that they stop companies -- ALL companies -- from closing factories in the US and moving the jobs out of the country.

I have more coming about this.

Here is one immediate action you can take. American Rights At Work has an action page with a petition: Take Action: Tell Toyota: Don't Abandon Your Workers

Toyota got its start in America 25 years ago when it opened a plant in Fremont, CA. But on March 31, Toyota plans to close the plant.

Laying off 5,000 people will only be the beginning. 50,000 workers, vendors, and suppliers – and the families who depend on them – could immediately lose their livelihoods. And hundreds of thousands more will be affected by the loss of tax revenue and consumer spending.

Will you help us demand Toyota do right by the workers who helped it get a foothold in America?

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 4, 2010 10:14 PM


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