East Bay elected officials yesterday welcomed a $19 million emergency grant from the federal government to help workers affected by the recent closure of the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the grant at a news conference at a re-employment center across the street from the shuttered NUMMI plant. The event was attended by former NUMMI employees, union leaders, local government officials and three East Bay congressmen.
Congressman John Garamendi, (D-Walnut Creek) told Solis, "I know the president cares deeply (about former NUMMI workers) and has sent you here with the checkbook. The assistance you're bringing is really needed and we've got to do it."
Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) said that although the grant is welcome news, Monday's announcement was still "a somber occasion" because NUMMI's closure on April 1 after 25 years of producing cars for General Motors and Toyota threw 4,700 union employees out of work and also affected thousands of employees at suppliers around the state.
McNerney said parts of his district have unemployment rates as high as 24 percent and called the grant "a ray of hope."
Solis said the closure of the NUMMI plant was "a tremendous blow to all of us" and said the grant will go toward retraining displaced workers for new jobs and providing support for their families.
Solis applauded the announcement by Tesla Motors and Toyota on May 20 that they're forming a partnership to build electric cars at the site.
Tesla said the new production, which is expected to start in 2012, will create about 1,000 jobs initially.
Solis urged the new partnership to hire former NUMMI employees and Garamendi called for it to be a union shop, as was NUMMI.