About 3,200 people -- most of the 4,700 who work at the doomed Fremont plant -- have been sent home in recent days, even before the official final day of operations at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. The plant is a joint venture of General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
"This is devastating, said Jamie Shipp, an Oakland resident and NUMMI worker. "But at least Toyota gave people six to seven months to prepare. GM just pulled out with no warning."
By Wednesday night, 1,500 people were still employed at the factory, said Javier Contreras, president
NUMMI dismissed 1,000 people late last week. Another 500 went home Tuesday. On Wednesday, 1,000 clocked out for the final time, Contreras said.
NUMMI's final Toyota Tacoma truck rolled off the assembly line around 12:40 p.m. on March 26. All Tacoma production workers were dismissed last Friday. The remaining production employees work on the Corolla, the last of which was scheduled to exit the vast plant sometime Thursday.
"We are telling people to stay positive about this," said Sergio Santos, president of UAW Local 2244.
Workers laid off Wednesday were employed in the body shop, paint department and stamping unit, Contreras said.
NUMMI has not responded this week to requests for comment about the departures.
In the plant's final week, Corolla assembly workers were typically sent home an hour or more before their shifts ended because Toyota has recently scaled back its production targets, employees said.
"Up until last Friday, the Corollas were running full out," said Veronica Torres, a Pleasanton resident who installs items in the passenger cars such as dashboards, sun visors, windshields, back windows and air conditioning. "But this week, they are producing less."
The day shift at the plant produced about 365 Corollas on Tuesday and about 250 on Wednesday, Torres said. UAW officials previously had estimated the plant can produce 500 Corollas per shift.
"We are working hard and trying to show why we are producing quality cars," Torres said. "The quality is here because of us."
Other workers, while irked by Toyota's and GM's decision to abandon the factory, said they would not allow their production to slip.
"Even though NUMMI is kicking us to the curb, we are taking pride in building great cars for Toyota," said Michelle Cesar, a San Leandro resident who installs Corolla dashboards and other components.
Employees said they believe their fellow workers have not slacked off.
"I haven't seen anybody just give up and say they don't care," Cesar said. "They are still doing their job correctly and with pride."
Some workers complained that NUMMI has herded employees out the door abruptly during the final days.
"They just want you to walk the line and get out," Torres said. "That's pretty mean. I have 13 years of relationships here. All you can do is walk and wave and hope your friends see you."
A wide array of emotions has begun to set in as more groups of workers exit the plant for the final time and the last of NUMMI's Corollas nears its departure point.
"The mood last week was really bad," said Almo Quesada, a San Jose resident and Corolla production worker. "By Tuesday, people were getting used to it. Some people are crying. Some are hugging. Everybody has had a different reaction."
Still, if there was a common reaction, employees had to face the finality of the end of a career. In some cases, workers left jobs that spanned decades.
"The reality is hitting them," Contreras, the UAW official, said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.