NUMMI Workers Picket Toyota at California Auto Show – Why?

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According to local San Jose, California news station KCBS, NUMMI workers picketed Toyota at the San Jose Auto Show last week. The report says that the picketing NUMMI workers are also planning to deliver a petition to keep their factory open beyond it’s scheduled closure date. While no one can blame these workers for trying to save their jobs, why are they picketing Toyota?

NUMMI is a partnership between GM and Toyota

NUMMI is a partnership between GM and Toyota, but GM decided to end the partnership when they filed bankruptcy last year.

If you follow the auto industry, you know what Toyota decided to close NUMMI (the last major California auto plant) nearly 6 months ago. Toyota’s decision to abandon NUMMI followed GM’s announcement that NUMMI wasn’t going to be a part of the “new” GM. In other words, Toyota pulled out of NUMMI after GM pulled out.

Once Toyota Toyota officially determined they couldn’t continue to produce cars in California , they informed NUMMI’s 4,500 (or so) workers. This happened about 4 months ago. NUMMI’s workers (who are members of the UAW) were told that NUMMI would build it’s last vehicle in March, 2010. Understandably, this was disappointing and depressing news, and many workers were justifiably upset. Yet it seemed that most NUMMI workers understood this was just as much about GM’s bankruptcy as it was anything.

Now, it seems that sentiments have changed. Some of NUMMI’s workers want to lay the blame for their plant’s closure at Toyota’s feet. While it’s certainly true that Toyota deserves some share of the blame for the plant’s closure, it’s also logical to blame GM, California’s excessive regulations and anti-business climate, and the economy as a whole.

While it’s difficult to appreciate the situation that NUMMI workers are facing, it’s not as if Toyota hasn’t tried to soften the blow:

  1. Toyota has given NUMMI workers at least 6 months notice. Hundreds of thousands of US workers have been fired over the last 18 months, and it’s doubtful that any of them were given 6 months notice to prepare. NUMMI’s workers have it better than most in that respect.
  2. NUMMI workers have been earning overtime since the closure has been announced. Toyota raised production at NUMMI to maximum just before they announced their decision to close the plant. This was done because of recovering sales. What’s more…
  3. Toyota is going to continue to run NUMMI at max capacity until the plant closes. When NUMMI closes, Toyota is going to need a few months to re-start production at other plants (NUMMI’s Tacoma production has been moved to San Antonio alongside the Tundra, and NUMMI’s Corollas are going to Canada). In order to make sure they don’t run out of Tacomas or Corollas during the transition time, Toyota is going to run NUMMI at full speed in order to build up a stockpile.

In other words, some NUMMI workers are picketing the employer that has given them 6 months notice and lots of overtime pay. While no one should expect people to be happy when their plant closes, picketing is absurd. Toyota was forced to close NUMMI because they partnered with GM

Filed Under: Auto News

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  1. I agree UAW picketing Toyota is not only counter productive, but also retarded.
    UAW should be focusing on a petition for Toyota to contribute to Nummi employees retention/severance package to be comparable to industry standards.

    Actually, Toyota’s blaming of GM is not entirely true. Nummi makes tacoma’s, corollas and vibes, however the vibe was less than 10% of all the cars on a daily basis. And by the company running at full capacity it makes more than enough money to stay in business. Toyota’s real reason is that they don’t want Nummi, because it’s a union shop.

  2. mk says:

    How can the plant closing be toyota’s fault? Because they layed in bed with GM in the first place. I can tell you first hand since I worked for 6 long wasteful years at GM back in the 90’s and like most huge companies, they have a ton of wasteful deadbeats being middle and upper mgmt. just taking up space and not enough grunt workers doing the job that makes the mgrs. look good. I’m sure it is like that in most companies, but GM is or was at the top of the list. You’d be pissed too if you were losing your job very shortly, especially one that pays as well as most of the plant union workers got paid and do everything possible, even picketing, to try and get your job back so you can live a decent life. It won’t do any good, but why not try?

  3. Joe Smith says:

    The reason to not try is simple. That is wasted energy and time that would be better spent in a productive manner looking for your next job. Screaming at someone to employ you seems a bit absurd.

  4. mk says:

    If your job was making 20 bucks per hour or more when all the other jobs were 12 bucks per hour around you, I bet you would be picketing also to keep you employed also. But, like you said, it is a waste of time since the big shots called the shots a long time ago and what you are doing they could care less about.

  5. Jason says:

    If it was me, I’d be at the learning annex brushing up on a new skill. Or looking for a place to live in a state without the USA’s highest rate of unemployment. Or coming up with a system for betting the ponies. Basically, I’d be working on anything else but standing around asking for help. It doesn’t make sense – NUMMI was a partnership. One of the partners filed bankruptcy. What can you do?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why did GM and Toyota go in together at NUMMI? Wasn’t it a joint endever for GM to improve quality? But what did they make the most of? Toyota’s with a occasional Vibe. So Toyota didn’t help GM quality and really didn’t make any money off the vehicles made at NUMMI. So is Toyota partially to blame for GM’s current condition, riding on their coat tails while they (GM) are paying some of the biils? Its a question! Now that GM is gone now Toyota is pulling out just to spend more money to built the same vehicle else where. Wouldn’t it more cost efficient to continue to produce the vehicles at this planet? Its already tooled for it. As for moving production to Canada and now this, it is apparent that Toyota does not care about the american people. As long as they make money that’s all that matter. The only reason they manufacture vehicles in the US is it cheaper. No matter what you say it is! Why do companies outsource to save money. Toyota is outsourcing to the US to save money.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Last ditch effort of a Tundra owner, “Oh yhea well let’s hook bumpers”! I think it is ignorant and really immature.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What you need to know is the people at the auto shows that are picketing are the union representatives and not the “regular workers”. At this moment in time they don’t really represent the majority of team members at NUMMI. As is human nature there will always be some people who buy into their talk, but you can be assured that the majority don’t buy what the union reps are doing and saying. As a matter of fact, most are quite concerned that the union people aren’t doing their jobs in negotiating the retention package and would prefer to fire the whole bunch and get someone else. Unfortunately, they also know that any effort in this direction would be shouted down and essentially ignored by the union. At this moment in time all the union reps are doing is spending the union dues on boondoggle trips like attending these shows and going to “training meetings” in high end hotels. All this while collecting their pay check provided by NUMMI. With NUMMI closing at the end of March, why train? This is just one more thing that shatters the credibility of the already weak union representatives.

  9. TXTee says:

    It’s unfortunate that NUMMI workers are out of jobs but if half of the laid off workers of any industry or company were to picket, would it still make sense? Probably not. I think people are just frustrated and being more emotional than rational at the moment. And it’s also a bit inconsiderate to look that retarded when receiving a 6 month package. I’m quite sure if I lose my job today that I’m probably only getting a month….they’ve trimmed packages everywhere. These people should be somewhat thankful and start picketing some job boards, applications, and get creative in other ways of finding employment.

  10. Jason says:

    To the first anonymous comment, the answer is that it IS cheaper to move the plant. I’m no expert on manufacturing, but the people who are have said that Toyota’s higher costs are due to the age of the plant, the higher wages paid to UAW members, and the regulatory climate in California. As for your point about “they don’t care about the American worker,” I think that can be said of any big corporation. Ask former GM employees in Flint, Michigan if GM cares about them, and I’m sure you won’t get a positive answer.

  11. Jason says:

    To the second anonymous comment, thanks for sharing. That’s good info that wasn’t included in the original report. It sounds as if things at the UAW are still profoundly disfunctional. As many have said, the worst enemy of the UAW is the UAW itself. Good luck to you and all the other NUMMI employees.

  12. Paul says:

    I can attest for one of the big 3 caring for their employees, even 10 years after retiring. When I have a issue they take care of it, well beyond what I ever expected. So what is going to be done with the NUMMI planet? Is it going to sit and be a eye sore or is their already a buyer? If it is not being sold or can not be sold what do you think will happen? They will still have to pay taxes and other costs to either maintain the grounds or demolish it. So how will it be cost effective if they can not part with it? It they can find a buyer and make a profit I see the advantage. With that being said who owns it GM or Toyota? Is it 50/50? People don’t understand that a planet in a town closing will have dramatic effects on more than just the employee’s, it effects everything in that town all the way to possibly the region. Some individuals need to look at the big picture and effects! Taking american jobs and sending them to Canada.

  13. mk says:

    Paul, great comment on a plant closing affects not just the plant employees, but the town, surrounding towns, and other suppliers. The local GM plant in Janesville WI (one of the oldest GM plants around) with a population of only about 55K closed Dec. 23, 2008 and the trickle down effect is still huge. The largest employer just shut its doors and closed at least 3 other suppliers in the process, if not more that I am not aware of. The unemployment rate in Janesville is about 10% or slightly above and has been as high as almost 20% in nearby Beloit, WI and a lot of that is due to the plant closing. Think about it, 1 in 5 citizens unemployed is huge! Tough times all over and not just in WI.

  14. Mickey says:

    Jason I agree with your first comment about learning a new skill while you can. Also agree with the plant moving. As you mention the age of the plant weighs in pretty good. All the money being put into a plant which is old to keep it up to date becomes costly. Coupled that with the taxes being put on plant with no incentives to keep it there. Yes cheaper labor also in Texas at a new plant. I also agree with the comment about what you stated on thet Toyota doesn’t care for the American people. Before anonymous can even mention that he/she has forgotten that where their clothes, electronic’s etc come from. All these plants closed in the US and went abroad. It boils down to plain economics 101. You don’t make a profit you don’t stay in business. San Antonio plant has the room for the Tacome to be built there so that’s why they moved it there. Cost effective. So now the Corolla will be built outside the states. Wasn’t this plant already there? Again economics 101. You don’t like it there anonymous don’t call anyone on your cell phone or use your computer or much wear wrangler jeans an American icon whiched outsourced. We don’t need to list everything that left. I can list a manufacturing company I worked for that was union and they left to go to Africa. Kaiser Aluminum. The last plant in USA is in Oakland. Back in 82 when they closed we were making $12 an hour. By going overseas they got a new plant which used “Pre-baked pots” vice the old “Soda-berg pots”. Production was faster and cost less to make the aluminum. Not to mention it was cheaper to pay a worker in Africa $1-2 an hour than $12 an hour at the plant I was at. This plant employed 2,000 people and part of the “Local Steel Workers Union”.

  15. Jason says:

    NUMMI was a 50-50 partnership to start with, but in the last decade it’s been building mostly Toyota products. I think that Toyota genuinely considered keeping NUMMI open, but who knows. It’s possible that it was just posturing.

    It sucks when plants close, but I blame the people of California. They elected a legislature that passed a lot of laws and regulations that made business difficult. CEO’s and independent analysts say California is one of the worst places to run a business in the country. Check this article out:

  16. Anonymous says:

    So the question was if the plant is no sold they will still have to pay property taxes and general upkeep of the facility unless they demolish it. So is their anyone planned to but it. If not how will moving be efficient when you still have responsibility of the last plant? As for Mickeys comment, Toyota claims they are American made yet they shut down a plant and send production to Canada for one model while they are advertising they are moving production to a planet in Texas. I apologize I pulled your string but don’t advertise american made if you shut down a american plant and send production to a foreign company.

  17. Mickey says:

    Anonymous what about Mexico and Canada for your big 3? I get it that’s okay. What happen to the plants in WI? Where did your plants move to? You want to talk crap then how about cleaning your own backyard before you tell someone else to clean there’s.

  18. Anonymous says:

    You can not answer a question with a question. This is not Jeopardy.

  19. Jason says:

    Anonymous – I’m not sure what you’re asking exactly in your question (hard to understand what you wrote), but the answer is Toyota decided it’s cheaper to build cars elsewhere. I’m guessing that the NUMMI facility will be liquidated as a condition of the old GM’s bankruptcy proceedings (which are ongoing).

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