SAN FRANCISCO — State Treasurer Bill Lockyer brought together a panel of fellow California leaders last week in San Francisco for a public hearing to investigate the potential impact of Toyota's plans to shut down its New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. vehicle plant in Freemont, Calif.
The panel collected information and heard testimony from a variety of experts on the potential economic, social and environmental costs of this move and plans to report on its findings on Wednesday.
The Blue Ribbon Commission consisted of:
—Professor Harley Shaiken, UC Berkeley.
—Bob Wasserman, mayor of Fremont.
—Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Presbyterian Church USA.
—Victor Uno, chairman, Port of Oakland.
—Richard Holober, executive director, Consumer Federation of California.
—Bruce Kern, executive director, East Bay Economic Development Alliance.
—Carl Pope, president, Sierra Club.
—Nina Moore, Fremont Chamber of Commerce.
—Art Pulaski, chief officer, California Labor Federation.
—Actor Danny Glover.
In its news release, the California Labor Commission argues that closing NUMMI — which has consistently earned top ratings from J.D. Power and Associates, officials noted — would be the current recession's biggest mass layoff.
Officials suggested that concern throughout the state has resulted from the thought of losing "potentially tens of thousands" of jobs at NUMMI itself and throughout related industries.
The Blue Ribbon Commission has been called to not only gather information on what shutting down NUMMI could result in, but also looking at potential alternatives for keeping NUMMI open.
"Californians are deeply concerned about how the loss of this plant might affect their economy, their state and their lives, and it is the job of this commission to help find the answers to those questions," Lockyer explained
"It is a testament to the quality of leaders on this panel that they have been more than willing to take up this challenge. I have asked the panel, and they have agreed, to gather and assess the facts and to have a report on my desk by next Wednesday morning so that I can share it with the public at noon," he continued.
Meanwhile, the film star Glover offered his take, noting: "California leaders — religious, civic, labor and business — have come together on this commission to determine for ourselves if the closing of Toyota's California plant is necessary, to assess the severity of the impact that would follow such a closing, and, if possible, to explore strategies that might make it possible to avoid a shutdown.
"It is an honor to have been asked to serve my state in this serious and important matter," he added.
Moving on, officials pointed to analysis from some economic experts that suggests that the NUMMI shutdown could result in up to 50,000 additional jobs lost. They explained that includes the 5,000 current employees of the plant and roughly 50,000 more jobs in related industries throughout California, while also pointing out that some of the plant's suppliers of parts and material — anticipating the shutdown — have already unveiled layoff plans.
Reyes-Chow, who heads up the Presbyterian Church USA and a San Francisco Bay area congregation, added: "This commission has a moral duty to serve our community and state to sort out the facts, to assess the implications of those facts, and to search for solutions that will best serve the needs of Californians and their families."