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NUMMI workers voting on $278-million severance package funded by Toyota

March 17, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Workers at a Fremont auto production plant, which Toyota Motor Corp. has ordered to be closed April 1, are voting all day Wednesday on a severance package worth $278 million.

About 4,700 employees of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. facility, known as NUMMI, will vote between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. to ratify a proposal starting at $21,175 for each person. Votes will be counted Thursday morning.

The package, part of a deal reached by NUMMI management and the Local 2244 branch of the United Auto Workers union, was funded by Toyota. The automaker bumped up its original $250-million severance offer from earlier this month partly because of the controversy kicked up by news of the plant’s closure, union officials said.

Nummi Workers will receive the payment in one lump sum in the first weeks of May.

The factory, the last auto-making facility in the state, is a 50-50 joint venture with General Motors Corp., which pulled out of the partnership in August because of its bankruptcy filing.

Instead of shuttering the facility, Toyota could have filled GM’s hole by scheduling production of more Corollas, Prius models and future hybrid and plug-in vehicles, said Sergio Santos, president of the local union chapter, in a statement.

When the factory closes its doors, Santos said, tens of thousands of workers in supporting industries, such as auto parts suppliers, will suffer. The chain reaction could result in depressed home values, strained public services, stressed taxpayers and even increased greenhouse gas emissions as Toyota manufactures its vehicles abroad and ships them to the U.S., he said.

The severance offer includes a provision prohibiting Santos and other UAW workers from discussing the closure or its impact after the agreement is ratified, he said.

“We brought them success and now we have been betrayed,” he said. “Toyota has betrayed us and now they have gagged us.”

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: The Nummi plant in Fremont. Credit: Dave Getzschman / Los Angeles Times