Second Thoughts: Brace for another batch of bad news
by Jon Mendelson
Sep 18, 2009 | 2156 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two weeks ago, City Manager Leon Churchill shared how the Tracy Investment Plan is helping the city weather an economic tempest by boosting car sales, building infrastructure and just getting people out of the house. But with every silver lining, it seems there’s another cloud looming on the horizon.

And this next one’s a biggie.

In March, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory in Fremont — better known in these parts as NUMMI — will shut its doors.

The onetime joint project of GM and Toyota lost its American backing in June, and at the end of August, the Japanese automaker stated it will shutter the plant, no matter the incentives dreamed up by city and state lawmakers.

That’s saying sayonara to 4,700 workers. And more than a few of those live on this side of the Altamont.

One of them is Allen, a Tracy resident who’s labored at NUMMI the past eight years.

He told me this week that the workers at the plant, many of whom live on this side of the hill, feel they’ve become the lowest priority — of the company, the city of Fremont and lawmakers who publicly profess to be on the side of workers and protecting American jobs.

“We feel betrayed,” he told me, by those who have simply accepted that the plant will close and leave its loyal workers out in the cold.

From Allen’s view, the middle class is being ignored, and once again getting the shaft.

From an accountant’s view, however, closing NUMMI makes sense. According to the Center for Automotive Research, the company has an excess of production in a time when overall demand for cars has plummeted. The only solution to reduce that oversupply was to shut plants down. And NUMMI, which according to Toyota execs was not “economically viable” as soon as GM pulled out, was a logical target.

But a look at the flesh-and-bone impacts — a look through the eyes of Allen and his fellow workers — is harder to stomach.

Not only will he and thousands of other workers be out of a job — meaning no money for rent and mortgages, let alone the consumer spending that’s the lifeblood of our economy — they’ll be out of health care coverage, too.

(That’s one of the reasons affordable, universal health care is so important, but that’s another column.)

Sure, the story of workers losing their jobs isn’t unique. More than 1-in-10 Tracy workers are unemployed, as are 3-in-20 workers in the county.

The story is worth sharing, however, because the NUMMI closure will be brought home to Tracy and San Joaquin County by more than just Allen and his fellow commuters.

The damage toll goes far beyond those who populate the East Bay facility — some 19,000 other jobs are linked to the Toyota plant through a vast supply chain, according to the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

Plenty of those are in San Joaquin County.

Michael Locke, the president and chief executive of the San Joaquin Partnership, is on record saying that as many as 1,200 “direct jobs” in the county could be in jeopardy because of the NUMMI closure. Mostly, those jobs are linked to 10 companies that supply parts for Fremont-made Toyota Tacomas and Corollas.

Not all those jobs will vanish — the suppliers could well find other markets for their products, and there’s a search in Fremont to find a new suitor for the soon-to-be-empty plant.

But many of those jobs certainly will.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing Tracy can really do to cushion the blow. Except, that is, to keep on trucking with the investment plan, hope that it creates the jobs that seem to be disappearing everywhere else, and pray that people like Allen can hold on.

• Share your thoughts with columnist and Associate Editor Jon Mendelson at jmendelson@tracypress.com.
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JoPlummer
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September 22, 2009
Jon,

What percent of those workers are getting offers to work at the the Ohio factory and other factories. Some of them won't leave because a spouse has a job, or for family reasons. Etc.

Did you ask NUMI what's going on with out of state offers? Please do.


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