Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and United Auto Workers (UAW) Vice President Bob King joined representatives from labor, environmental and consumer groups outside the Embassy of Japan in Washington today to call on the Japanese government to hold Toyota accountable for waging an attack on thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States.
In addition to endangering 5,000 middle class jobs in the carhaul industry, Toyota is also planning to close its New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) assembly plant in Fremont, CA, which will mean a loss of up to 50,000 jobs at NUMMI and suppliers and other supporting businesses. Toyota began production in the U.S. in 1984 through NUMMI, its joint venture with General Motors at Fremont, according to industry research firm IBISWorld.
The delegation delivered a letter from UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles and Hoffa to Prime Minister of Japan Yukio Hatoyama following the speaking program. In the letter, the leaders of UAW and the Teamsters expressed concern that Toyota’s plan to abandon workers and communities will negatively affect America’s perception of Japan, and calls on the Japanese government to meet with them and with Toyota management.
King, who was representing UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Settles, told the crowd that California led the nation in “Cash for Clunkers” sales in 2009, and that Toyota sold more cars under this program than any other auto maker.
“It’s outrageous that the number one-selling car in Cash for Clunkers was the Corolla, the car that is manufactured in the NUMMI plant. After receiving more money in this bailout program than any other company, Toyota is turning its back on American workers and American taxpayers by closing the plant in the state where they sell the most cars in the U.S., shipping these jobs to Japan, and then importing the cars back to the United States for sale,” said King.
“Toyota management is seeking to move work from auto transport companies that have delivered their new cars and trucks for decades,” Hoffa said. “The loss of this work could lead to the destruction of the largest auto transport companies in the country and the loss of thousands of good, middle class jobs. Toyota promised to support American communities; they’re instead threatening the very types of good jobs that our communities need in this time of economic crisis.”
“Toyota’s plant closure plan in California has betrayed American workers and exhibited a disdain for our federal programs like cash for clunkers that directly and handsomely benefited Toyota,” said Dr. Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth US. “Toyota’s decision to shift production to Japan will dramatically increase shipping miles to California for its new vehicles and is inconsistent with a worldwide effort to reduce carbon footprints.”
Toyota is likewise losing the trust of the American public by abandoning its commitment to safety and being less than forthright about some of its problematic vehicles, said auto safety advocate Sean Kane, president and founder of Safety Research & Strategies.
“The now well-publicized sudden acceleration problem with some Toyota and Lexus vehicles has actually been festering for a number of years, but Toyota neglected the issue,” said Kane. “Now it’s trying to repair its image with a series of recalls that few believe will actually repair the many vehicles affected. It’s pretty clear that there are a multitude of defects contributing to these unintended accelerating incidents that, unfortunately, have resulted in deaths and injuries.”
“The Toyota Fremont, CA NUMMI plant is where the popular Toyota Corolla and Tacoma pickup truck are made, and it has among the best productivity and quality of any assembly plant in the U.S.,” King said. “Abandoning this facility and endangering tens of thousands of jobs is a betrayal of Toyota’s promise to support communities, and a betrayal of its workers, middle class American jobs and our economic recovery.”