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By Jeb Bing

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About this blog: A longtime newspaperman, I have been editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since it was launched Jan. 28, 2000. I was a reporter and Neighborhood News editor at the Chicago Tribune for 13 years, and previously a reporter for the Advance...  (More)

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Amador coach among 4,700 losing jobs at NUMMI

Uploaded: Mar 29, 2010
This week, my good friend and lifelong Pleasanton resident Ken Villegas will find himself unemployed for the first time since graduating from Amador Valley High School in 1967.

As an 18-year-old, he took a job at the new General Motors assembly plant in Fremont, and then in 1984 was hired on at the New United Motor Manufacturing factory, which was a breakthrough joint venture of GM and Toyota using the same plant, which was then expanded.
Today, at age 60, Villegas just a few days worth of work to complete before NUMMI closes its plant -- the only automobile manufacturing facility left in California -- putting him and some 4,700 other employees out of work in one of the worst recessions we've seen in half a century.

Villegas is probably best known locally as the winning boys soccer coach at Amador. The team just ended its winter season, making it to the North Coast Section playoffs for the 11th straight year -- and for the 12th time since Villegas started coaching there 13 years ago. Long ago, when he first started coaching junior varsity at Foothill and later at Moreau Catholic, he rearranged his schedule at NUMMI to start at 3 a.m. daily so that he could be back on campus for soccer practice when school let out. If he finds another job, he'll ask for a similar schedule so that he can coach his highly talented Dons team when the season starts again in November.

Unlike some others at NUMMI, Villegas still sings the praises of the company's management and workforce, which has produced hundreds of thousands of vehicles over the years. As a team leader, he helped learn and introduce the productivity skills and quality control that Japanese management brought with them to the joint venture. Different from conventional assembly line manufacturing, NUMMI employees worked as teams from top management to the maintenance department, celebrating together every improvement in output.

What puzzles Villegas is why Toyota is shuttering the plant which has gained worldwide recognition for its quality and productivity. But once General Motors pulled out of the joint venture agreement because of bankruptcy, the NUMMI contract became vulnerable, especially with Toyota already having its own plants in several southern states and Canada, including a new plant in Tennessee that stands empty.

Villegas says that NUMMI and Toyota are being fair to its Fremont-based employees, offering sizeable retention packages for those who stay at their jobs through April 1 with additional support promised in retraining programs and job searches. Although there's been some bitterness over Toyota's decision, for the most part the same can-do spirit that permeated the NUMMI workforce has continued in the last six months since the plant closing was announced. It's possible, he says, that the prestigious J. D. Power Gold Award for manufacturing efficiency could go to NUMMI, an award that would be presented in May to a plant that would then be empty.

Villegas has lived here all his life. With his wife Marilyn, also an Amador graduate, the couple has three children: Ken Jr., now 39; daughter Jennifer Villegas Sanford, who lives in New York City with her husband Andy and their four children; and Anthony, 33. Ken Jr. and Jennifer also graduated from Amador, but Anthony, who was in the seventh grade when Pleasanton Middle School opened, followed his friends to Foothill, where he played on the Falcons soccer teams.

Villegas says that with the retention package offered by NUMMI, his unemployment compensation until he finds another job and a pension that he can start collecting in two years when he turns 62, he and Marilyn will be able to continue living in Pleasanton. Many fellow workers live here, too, with hundreds more living in the Tri-Valley. He's concerned for those who are losing their jobs at much younger ages who have young children, children in college and homes with larger mortgages. They'll need to find jobs quickly and Villegas, along with Human Resources assistance from Toyota, plan to do what they can to help them.

When he walks out of the NUMMI plant for the last time, though, Villegas will be taking a vacation -- probably still waking up early but traveling a bit with Marilyn to relax after 43 years of 8-to-10-hour shifts and many weekends also on the job.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

To Jeb Bing,
While reading your article, I am reminded by the hypothetical story of a teenager who kills his parents and then pleads with authorities to have mercy on him because he is now an orphan.

Mr. Bing, you and the PW are partly to blame for NUMMI's demise because you have been promoting democrats like McNerney and Obama. The Obama Administration deliberately closed down NUMMI to eliminate competition. Period.

This was also corroborated by another individual who has posted on this TownForum who was in NUMMI management and was present in a meeting when the decision was handed down by the Obama Admin to close NUMMI.

I may be wrong with the above...and if so, I apologize. But this is what I have concluded by reading this TownHall forum when the decision was handed down.

Posted by Be Quiet, a resident of Golden Eagle,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

Ken Villegas is a great coach and is loved dearly by the Amador community.

Mark- shut it. This man is losing his job. Don't take this as an opportunity to point the finger.

Posted by radical, a resident of another community,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

wait 1 hot second, the obamas and the dem congress trot out one victim after another to show us why we all need a trillion dollar health care program, like it is going to save all of their lives--Obama admin condemned Mr Villegas career when Obama took over GM then GM pulled out of NUMMI few months later
obama doesn't need more CA voters, he will get millions more when he gives amnesty to all the illegals
Mr Villegas is a victim of the obama political machine

Posted by Mark, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

Dear BeQuiet:
Sorry, I will not "be quiet." I feel very very bad for the gentleman who lost his job because it is so wrong, so unnecessary. This "was" America where free-enterprise would reward those who worked hard and smart. Obama is the anti-Reagan and against all private sector companies in the US. My thoughts and prayers are with the gentleman and his family for this very avoidable closing of NUMMI, if the free-market were allowed to prevail.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I have known Ken since I started at NUMMI in 1990. Great guy and good luck Ken at least you are 60 not 42 like me. My last day is this Friday. Yes Mark is right, Obama finished us off and our union urged us to support him!

Posted by Connie, a resident of Downtown,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Kevin, Mark, radical,

Is it also Obama's fault you are angry, intolerant, ignorant conservatives? Don't worry, I'm sure you guys can vent all this at your next white nationalist tea party get-together.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Jeb, what a nice tribute to your friend, and a very positive outlook on a tough situation. It sounds as though Toyota is doing their best to send these employees off with some assistance and I commend them for that.

My siblings (one a Ph.D. and the other with many years experience in her field) have both been out of work for over two years. It has been a rough go and we have all helped them as much as possible, but they blame no one and are still motivated to get back to work.

I wish your friend and the other employees all the best.

Posted by BIG POPPA, a resident of Del Prado,
on Mar 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

So let me see if I understand. Since the Demoncats took over Congress in 2008 unemployment went from about 4.5% to its current level of 9.7%. 2008 the US budget was 2.9 trillion and this years budget is scheduled to be about 3.5 trillion dollars and going up up up up. The Obama Administration is not interested in creating job only destroying them. WHERE IS THE "LASER LIKE FOCUS ON JOBS"?

I feel bad for people who are losing their jobs but I'm pretty confident that most of them voted for Obama and his Demoncat Thugs.

I guess elections do have consequences so you must sleep in the bed you make.

Posted by jimf01, a resident of another community,
on Mar 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

Wow Connie - Not even a good try at repeating the knee jerk OFA response, the "everyone opposed to Obama is a racist teabagger" meme.

Please check your SEIU provided talking points, you are not supposed to include union members and the newly unemployed in your unhinged rant.

Posted by Obama, a resident of Downtown,
on Mar 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

[Portion removed because it is abusive toward another commentor]

Sad to see all these jobs driven out of California and the U.S. by anti-business policies and union greed. Good luck to Ken and the thousands of others who will now be out of work at NUMMI and their suppliers.

Posted by Obama, a resident of Downtown,
on Mar 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Hilarious that Connie's attack wasn't deleted by the PW. Apparently her race-baiting isn't offensive.

Posted by Doc Feel Good, a resident of Val Vista,
on Mar 31, 2010 at 2:05 pm


I am sitting here reading all these comments, and what is very apparent is this:

Neither party is working hard for the common man/woman working hard every day to put food on the table and have a clean place to live.

And this is sad, very sad. BOTH parties work hard for their CORE, aka far right or far left. So the other 80% of us get stepped on.

We need more independent thinkers who will cross lines, and not just talk about it. And now I feel like a political commercial.

But the sad fact is, until we (80%) put more people in office who will actively work for us, we have no one to blame.

I feel bad for all the 4k plus people who lost their job at NUMMI.

And jobs are hard to get, I know this from personal experience.

So if people act instead of complain, we might be able to get something accomplished.

But who am I, just another commentator.


Posted by MP, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Mark, get over yourself. This article is not about Obama. Step away from the computer and get out of your mother's basement.

Posted by Mark, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Apr 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

MP...You just don't get it.

The closure of the NUMMI plant is EVERYTHING about the VILLAN OBAMA, as well as the plight of the victims who are the former employees and their families.

I believe this closure is against the US Constitution. Where in the Constitution does it allow the Federal Govt to ...

1. Fire the CEO of a private sector company
2. Acquire that company
3. Close down another private sector company that did absolutely nothing illegal.

This is WRONG!!!

These good people should be back at work building wonderful cars that they've been doing!

If you and others don't realize the dangerous precedent that Obama is setting, by shredding this Constitution and welding all kinds of power he shouldn't have in the first place, there are no limits to where he could strike next.

This should NOT be happening in America.

(Then again, he is not an American...hates this culture ... and is determined to destroy it. He is more dangerous than alQaeda because he is destroying America faster than alQaeda is.)

Posted by fed up in pleasantville, a resident of Downtown,
on Apr 3, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Right on Doc!!! I wish more people would wake up from this politically induced fog that has taken over our nation. United we stand!!!! Divided we will Fail and Fall!!!!

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin,
on Apr 4, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Janna is a registered user.

Mr. Villegas should feel quite fortunate. He's not had one single job loss since he started working in 1967? I'm sure he'll land on his feet and I'm sure he's got a pension or two and some savings.

Posted by jimf01, a resident of another community,
on Apr 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

Ladies and Gentlemen - there for you, in a quick nutshell, is the thinking of the far left. You see it is all relative, the government can almost literally sweep the legs out from underneath Mr Villegas, but he has it so much better than someone who is underemployed and driving a beat up Honda.
This kind of thinking, taken further, leads to stuff like this Web Link

Posted by lmfao@jimf01, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Oh man, this is the gift that keeps on giving!

Jim, are you suggesting that the government should force GM to keep NUMMI open?

Weren't you AGAINST government involvement in business?

How you guys manage to type through those straight jackets is beyond me...

Posted by jimf01, a resident of another community,
on Apr 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Keep laughing as the industry you work in becomes the next target. If you work in the health insurance industry, you are not laughing with the passage of ObamaCare. If you work for SallieMae or a bank division doing student loans, you are not laughing. If you work at NUMMI, you are not laughing (unless you are just fine with the severance and benefits which I am sure a few are).

Posted by lmfau@jimf01, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Oh, I AM, though!

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin,
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:09 am

Janna is a registered user.


Nice of you to put words in my mouth. Looking at the bright side of his situation is endorsing something? Huh?

The industry my husband worked in, IT, has had no government "take overs" and is still in the crapper. Who are you going to blame for that?

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin,
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:14 am

Janna is a registered user.


Notice Jim didn't actually answer your question about whether or not the government should intervene. He went right into scary boogy-man rhetoric.

Posted by lmfau@jimf01, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

Oh, I noticed. Pleasanton Mom does the same thing by pretending you asked something else or changing the subject when defeated by logic or confronted with hard facts. How else are you going to keep the rage stoked?

Posted by jimf01, a resident of another community,
on Apr 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

I didn't answer because I have addressed it already in this thread and in others. I am not going to repeat myself everytime some joker twists my posts into something I did not say.

here is what a comment above says:

Obama admin condemned Mr Villegas career when Obama took over GM then GM pulled out of NUMMI few months later

obama doesn't need more CA voters, he will get millions more when he gives amnesty to all the illegals

Mr Villegas is a victim of the obama political machine

my full thread:

Web Link

Posted by jimf01, a resident of another community,
on Apr 6, 2010 at 11:28 am

jimf01 is a registered user.

And I had better log in so I don't get my comments mixed up with those co-opting my identity in this blog.

Janna, you asked me a question you already know the answer to: The IT industry is still in the crapper. Who are you going to blame for that?

Posted by Mike, a resident of Highland Oaks,
on Apr 8, 2010 at 4:30 pm

This is the 2nd time in living history that GM has hit the red in serious-enough numbers to change people's lives. If they can pull it out a second time, great; but, they should do it the same way they did the first time - on their own.

The closure is a business decision.

Posted by John & Tim, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Apr 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Coach, Oboma had 12 men on the field on this one. He deserves a Red Card!

Posted by Dick, a resident of Valley Trails,
on Apr 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow! There are some angry people out there. The one way to change what many of you believe this administration is doing or not doing is vote. As someone said once, "vote the rascals out". And what Doc said is very true. The 20% on both sides working for the CORE values of each party is not helping the 80% of us struggling to make ends meet. One does not even need to leave their house to vote. On the back of the ballot information you will receive in the mail is an application for an absentee ballot. You can have the ballot sent to your home each election. Fill it out, mail it back and you have just voted. VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Posted by Pleasanton Mom, a resident of Mission Park,
on May 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm

After not logging on here for about 6 months, you all just reminded me why I stopped to begin with.

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