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NUMMI workers approve severence package when plant closes April 1

Union chief says Toyota 'gag order' bars him from talking to media about settlement details

The union that represents 4,700 workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. auto plant in Fremont voted Wednesday in favor of a proposed severance package.

Members of UAW Local 2244 voted in favor of ratifying the closing agreement by a 90-percent margin, according to the union. The severance package will bring a total of about $278 million to all NUMMI workers.

"We are deeply saddened to see these operations come to an end," United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement issued Wednesday night. "While this was not the outcome we had hoped for, the terms of this agreement will certainly help cushion the impact for our members."

UAW Region 5 Director Jim Wells said in a statement, "We are grateful to the members for the solidarity they've shown throughout this process."

The plant is scheduled to close on April 1.

Earlier Wednesday, Sergio Santos, the president of UAW 2244, told reporters at a news conference at the union's office, which is located across the street from the NUMMI plant, that the severance package mandates a gag order preventing him from speaking to news media.

Santos said at the afternoon news conference, "This statement on the closing of the Toyota NUMMI auto assembly plant, will, by necessity, be my last."

He alleged the severance package offer "mandates a gag order that I believe violates our First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and our rights to freedom of association under the labor rights conventions of the United Nations International Labor Organization."

But NUMMI spokesman Lance Tomasu said a gag order was not issued.

Tomasu said, "The UAW committed of its own accord not to further denigrate NUMMI or Toyota as a term of the shutdown agreement."

He said, "In fact, the union negotiated and proposed specific language for that provision of the agreement."

NUMMI was a 25-year-old joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, but GM announced in June that it would withdraw from the partnership and Toyota announced in August that it wouldn't order any more vehicles from the plant after April 1.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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