The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant, in Fremont, will shut down April 1, putting its 4,700 workers out of jobs. The state expects a ripple affect could displace as many as 38,000 more workers in about 1,000 supporting businesses statewide.
At least one Tracy company that supplies the plant with auto parts will close.
Auto union heads are resolute that they can save the plant — and their jobs — in the next month, but state officials said the closure is a done deal. They are directing plant employees to places where they can be retrained and to employment offices.
In August, Toyota Motors announced it no longer needs the Corolla sedans and Tundra trucks made in Fremont.
In 1984, Toyota Motors and General Motors opened the 380-acre plant, and last year, GM pulled out of the joint venture when it filed for bankruptcy.
Dawnelle Cummings, who lives in Tracy, started working 18 years ago on the plastic assembly line at the plant.
She said it’s a repetitive job, but the pay and benefits are great, and her coworkers are like family.
“I’m going to have to say goodbye to hundreds of friends,” she said. “And it’s sad, because we’re watching them take apart the machinery now. It’s just a piece of machinery, but it’s been an old friend. I’m depressed, very depressed.”
At least 800 plant assembly workers live in San Joaquin County, including 300 in Tracy, said Mike Locke, president and CEO of San Joaquin Partnership, a Stockton nonprofit that strives to lure companies and jobs to the county.
The Fremont plant gets some parts from eight suppliers in the county, including Pacific Coast Industries on Holly Drive.
That plant will close March 31, more than 25 years after it opened to build brake lines and fuel lines for the Fremont plant.
Pacific Coast Industries last month told its 127 employees, about 50 of whom live in Tracy, that it will sink with NUMMI’s closure, general manager Jasper Bullock said.
Mark Cordero, the company’s purchasing manager, started at Pacific Coast Industries in 1989 as a Tracy High School freshman. Back then, he was young and figured auto work was better than slinging fast food, but the job turned into a lengthy career.
Cordero worked up the ranks from delivery boy to working the assembly line, until he got a degree in computer science. He now handles the company’s information technology, in addition to purchasing.
He said he hopes he can be one of 10 of 15 workers to stay on board three months past the closing for the “wind-down” period.
After that, his future is uncertain.
On Friday, the Auto Workers Union Local 2244, which represents 3,900 of the Fremont plant workers, will stage a rally at its office near the plant in Fremont.
President Sergio Santos, who has been at the plant 19 years, is optimistic Toyota will reverse its decision to close. It operates four other assembly plants in the United States, according to its Web site.
In the past couple of weeks, the Japanese company has owned up to problems with 12 of its models, including Lexus cars. The company recalled pedals and floor mats and has acknowledged faulty brakes in its 2010 Prius.
None of the recalled models came out of Fremont’s plant.
Santos said it makes no sense to shut down a quality operation, especially when Californians are buying more Toyotas than people in any other state.
Mary Elliott, the union’s financial secretary, has worked 23 years for the plant.
She said she needed only 12 more to retire completely.
“I never thought I’d lose my job,” said the Tracy resident. “It hurts me that they’re taking these jobs to Japan.”
She said the job-loss domino effect goes beyond the auto industry, and she expects local restaurants will suffer when plant workers no longer buy lunch there.
Locke said the huge job voids will be a challenge to fill — there’s no nearby industry to take in the displaced workers.
“We do have a lot of well-skilled and trained employees who could go into any type of manufacturing industry,” he said. “We hope that attracts other companies. The scope of this job loss is so significant, it will take a number of years to absorb.”
All of NUMMI’s employees qualify for federal help to get other jobs, job skill training and extra income during training.
San Joaquin County’s WorkNet also helps laid off and economically disadvantaged people find work.
Last year, 20,000 people got WorkNet help in San Joaquin County, said deputy director Mike Miller.
At the Tracy WorkNet Center, 213 W. 11th St., dislocated workers can search for new jobs, have their skills assessed and get free training in some in-demand industries, such as trucking and health care.
Cummings said that while she collects unemployment pay from the state, she might take advantage of state and federal help to enroll in school in the medical field.
“I want to use my brain instead of my brawn now, like a lot of us are going to do,” she said.
Bullock said Pacific Coast Industries has hosted seminars and given employees information about their options. He said he hopes employees can walk out of there with their heads held high.
Sandra Cerda was one of the first workers hired when the company opened in 1985 under a different name.
“After all the years I’ve put in this place, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ll make that decision soon,” she said.
Cerda said she’s been to WorkNet already and plans to return for more information.
“I’m sad we’re going to close, but we have to move on,” she said. “We’re all in this together, and hopefully it’ll be better on the other side.”