Tag Archives: toyota

Toyota’s Plan To Close NUMMI Would Kill Jobs, Destroy Communities

For more than 25 years, thousands of workers in northern California have committed their lives to producing high-quality Toyotas at the Bay Area’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) auto plant, and hundreds of thousands of car-buying Californians have made Toyota the #1 car company in the state. So when Toyota announced last year that it plans to close down the NUMMI plant on April 1, 2010, the company dealt an undeserved punch in the gut to California’s workers and consumers, not to mention our state’s already faltering economy.

Toyota’s plan to close down NUMMI is the latest in a string of remarkably poor management decisions from the Japanese automaker, which is still in the hot seat after the recent rash of recalls of millions of Toyota vehicles worldwide. As the company struggles to regain consumer confidence, Toyota has absolutely nothing to gain by closing the plant, and both Toyota and California have just about everything to lose.

Closing the NUMMI plant is bad for:

California workers and their families. If Toyota has its way, 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.

Mari Alvarez, a mother of three, has worked at NUMMI for 9 years, and her husband worked there too, before he got injured. Mari said that if the plant closes

We just don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s not just an economic disaster, it’s a human tragedy.

The economy. There’s no doubt that the closure and subsequent layoffs would be devastating to our already faltering economy. California has already lost a million jobs since the beginning of the recession, and the proposed NUMMI closure would be the largest mass layoff in California since the recession began.  

Last week, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer introduced a new Blue Ribbon commission tapped to investigate just how dire the effects of the closure will be across California’s economy.

Lockyer explained:

Californians are deeply concerned about how the loss of this plant might affect their economy, their state and their lives, and it is the job of this Commission to help find the answers to those questions. It is a testament to the quality of leaders on this panel that they have been more than willing to take up this challenge


The commission — which includes representatives from labor, business, consumer, environmental, religious and political communities, as well as actor Danny Glover, who is a lifelong civil rights advocate — will be completing their investigation by Wednesday, and a delegation will travel to Japan shortly thereafter to present the commission’s findings to the Toyota executives.

The environment. Even though Californians buy more Toyotas than anywhere else, Toyota would rather increase their carbon footprint by shipping hundreds of thousands of cars to California from overseas, when they could be making them right here where they sell them.

In fact, if Toyota stuck by their promise to begin manufacturing the Prius (one of the most popular cars in northern California) and other hybrid vehicles at the NUMMI plant, instead of importing them, it would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would more than make up for the work lost when GM went bankrupt and was forced to discontinue manufacturing the Pontiac Vive. Toyota claims GM’s pull out was the primary reason for the decision to close NUMMI. In reality, GM production at NUMMI represented only 10% of 2008 production and less than 20% over the past five years.

Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, wrote in a letter to Toyota President Akio Toyoda:

California’s leadership in clean vehicles will drive up demand for the very best, and Toyota can show its commitment to the consumers in this state by bringing hybrid manufacturing to NUMMI.

Taxpayers. Toyota has the taxpayers to thank for dropping millions into the “cash for clunkers” program, which benefitted Toyota far more than any other car company. Toyota also received a variety of taxpayer-funded incentives and subsidies for training programs. And if the plant does close, the taxpayers will wind up footing the bill for the shutdown costs.

NUMMI is the last remaining auto plant on the West coast, and Toyota’s only unionized auto plant. NUMMI has consistently won top ratings from J.D. Powers for its outstanding commitment to efficiency, productivity and safety.  But if Toyota shutters the plant, tens of thousands of California workers will be left jobless, despite the fact that the company has never closed any of its other plants, nor have they ever laid off a single Japanese worker.

Toyota might think the NUMMI closure is a done deal, but we don’t. That’s why we’re supporting the UAW along with the AFL-CIO, Teamsters and dozens of other unions, environmentalists and community allies on a massive campaign at Toyota dealerships across the country to urge Toyota to make a U-turn and keep the NUMMI plant open.

Toyota’s plan to close the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont is an outright attack on union workers. And if they won’t employ our workers, then we won’t buy their cars. Sign the pledge today at http://bit.ly/4xYAif and vow not to buy any more Toyotas if the company shuts down the NUMMI plant.

Rebecca Greenberg is communications organizer at the California Labor Federation. Follow her on Twitter @CaliforniaLabor.

Let California Lead: the Green Economy and Lessons from 1990’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate

California has always represented a better future, and we seem more impatient to get there than anyone else. The examples are endless: the settlers risking everything to reinvent themselves on California’s fertile soil, the surfers who decided they’d rather surf the streets on skateboards than wait for waves, to the dotcom boom that created the internet age. When California is ready to lead, it’s best if you get out of the way. Because when California leads, it often benefits the entire country — and sometimes the world.

And California is ready to do it again, with a plan to guide America to a greener, cleaner, more sustainable future, and pull the nation out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. That plan is AB 32 (aka the Global Warming Solutions Act), California’s nation-leading initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) to 1990 levels through a mix of energy efficiency, clean/sustainable energy investment and regulations to force California’s polluters to clean up their own messes. In addition to improving the environment and the health of Californians, study after study show that AB 32 will be a major job creator with little or no impact on small businesses. That’s why over 2,400 large and small businesses, many in California, have joined American Businesses for Clean Energy, a diverse coalition calling on Congress to pass clean energy and climate legislation. And with the green/clean economy creating job growth and venture capital investment at a faster rate than the rest of the economy, California could position itself to lead the nation and the world in exportable green technology and solutions, just as it has with computers, software and the internet.

But this is not the first time California has attempted to lead the nation with a pioneering piece of legislation to reduce GHGE. In 1990, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate. It stated that any large automaker selling cars in California would have to derive at least 10% of its overall sales from cars that produce practically zero emissions — with 2% of the cars producing no emissions at all — by 2003. That meant that unless an automaker wanted to lose the huge California car market, they would have to begin making all-electric vehicles.

A great cry went up from defenders of the status quo — eerily similar to what is happening now with AB 32 — predicting economic doom if the legislation was enacted. “Electric cars with broad consumer appeal are an idea whose time has come and gone, much like eight-track tapes, Betamax, and New Coke,” said Jo Cooper, president of a major auto industry lobbying group. “It’s not that we can’t [build electric cars]. It’s that we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. In financial terms, it’s insane,” said Donn Walker, a regional spokesman for General Motors, adding, “The internal combustion engine is here to stay. It’s what customers want.” Automakers warned that plants would shut down, jobs would be lost and businesses would flee the state. Many claimed that it would be pointless for a single state (albeit the world’s 8th largest economy) to take such an ambitious step on its own — all claims currently being made about AB 32.

While automakers and lobbyists filed lawsuits to derail the mandate, they also quietly prepared to comply with it should their efforts fail. And in the case of General Motors, they succeeded in creating a great electric car called the EV1, which was leased to a few hundred lucky Californians (including celebrities like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson) who quickly fell in love with it. Because of California’s leadership, it seemed like the automotive future had finally arrived and America could begin the long farewell to smog, dependence on foreign oil and one of the major contributors to global warming.

Then George W. Bush was elected, with an administration full of former oil executives, as well as Andrew Card, the former CEO of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association and GM’s VP of government relations, as chief of staff. The ZEV mandate was killed and GM took back and destroyed every EV1, despite the leasees’ offer to purchase them. This sad tale of potential lost is told in the excellent, must-see documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? See my ReThink Review of WKTEC? below and my post about it here.

California was denied the opportunity to lead the nation into a new generation of auto fuel efficiency. And look what happened.

The auto industry went in the opposite direction, creating gas-guzzling SUVs that actually decreased America’s overall fuel efficiency. Our dependence on foreign oil increased, enriching countries like Saudi Arabia (home of Osama bin Laden and nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers), as well as Iran and Venezuela, handing them hundreds of billions as we fruitlessly rattled our sabers at them. Stratospheric spikes in oil prices coupled with the Bush recession left many SUV drivers unable to even fill their tanks, causing demand for gas guzzlers to seemingly evaporate overnight. With hundreds of thousands of SUVs left on their lots and few fuel-efficient or hybrid cars on their rosters, GM and other American carmakers were decimated, declaring bankruptcy, closing dozens of plants, laying off tens of thousands of workers and shuttering or selling off several of their brands. In the meantime, Toyota, which continued their investments in fuel efficiency with hybrid cars like the Prius, became the world’s number one carmaker for the first time in 77 years. Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf, will be onsale in December 2010. This week, GM announced it would stop making Hummers, the worst gas guzzler and an “automotive pariah”, forever.

If California had been allowed to lead with the ZEV mandate, America could have been selling electric cars in the late 1990s instead of fumbling to get their half-baked hybrids and electric concept cars into showrooms as they are now. GM’s electric vehicles and the pioneering technology they were based on would be sold around the world, saving and creating thousands of jobs in the US while reducing pollution from tailpipe emissions.

AB 32 has the same potential, if not more, as the ZEV mandate. And despite high unemployment and economic uncertainty that would seem to breed timidity, Californians are still prepared to lead, and are, in fact, proud of their reputation for doing so. In a recent poll by Tulchin Research, 79% of Californians said they are proud of the state’s leadership in innovation and technology, with a staggering 96% seeing it as an essential part of the state’s economy and 66% feeling strongly that policymakers should boost the tech sector and encourage innovation to strengthen the state’s economy.

California is ready to lead. It’s in our DNA. Don’t listen to the scaremongers defending the status quo, who have been so disastrously wrong in the past. Just let us do it.

(with research by Sarah Phillips)