More on SEIU Conflict; On the “Wise Latina” Comment; North Beach Library; Nummi Plant Closures, and an Astroturf Letter-Writing Campaign from Toyota? …

by on September 2, 2009

To the Editor:

For a change, Tim Paulson and the SF Labor Council are on the right side of an issue. However, that in no way excuses their ongoing support of the racist socio-economic policies of Lennar / Newsom’s Urban Renewal, or Mark Leno’s SB792 landgrab scam.

Patrick Monk
San Francisco

To the Editor:

I feel all the workers’ frustration, anger and fear. I’m one in the boat. We need more good people to show the evil corruption of SEIU. I’m a health care worker from St. Bernardines, and SEIU is threatening us with pledge of oath or remove us from stewardship. Well, my co-workers come first. Civil War begun … Shot heard around the world. “Democracy” NUHW!! (Andy Stern Dictator) This is America we will fight him.

Daniel Carrillo

To the Editor:

Lainey Feingold gives too much weight to our “personal life stories” in our differing abilities to “smell a rat.” Gavin de Becker would have broken this case exactly as these officers did; so would I have. Our life stories are much different, as are our ethnicities. Another factor is the differing structure and operation of our brains.

There was one time I had a strong negative intuition about a stranger I saw visiting a neighbor. I refused to return his verbal greeting, despite his verbal protestations that he was okay. Eventually a piece of mail addressed to him c/o this neighbor was erroneously put into my mailbox. Before I put it in a place where the neighbor would pick it up, I Googled the name because of my initial reaction. I learned this stranger was a registered sex offender!

This story could have come straight out of the pages of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.” In his book “The Relationship Cure,” John Gottman explains the different “Emotional Command Systems” in our brains, and the differences between individuals. The important one for these cases he calls the “Sentry.”

Name Withheld at Author’s Request

Dear Lainey Feingold:

As a Latina and a mom, I couldn’t agree with you more!

Sara Campos

To the Editor:

This is exactly right. Leave it to women to crack this case that has alluded the male officers completely. Living in Los Angeles for over 20 years brings me to the sad conclusion that the male police officers don’t think of rape as a high priority. They ignore calls from women telling them they see the rapist or a rape about to happen. We need more women in law and law enforcement. The police force shouldn’t be one of brute force and intimidation so much of the time — brain work should be involved. It would prevent a LOT of women from suffering the crimes we do in this city. Kudos to Jacobs and Campbell for using their reasoning skills and acting on them. They saved 3 lives that day.

Dee Erikson

To the Editor:

Not exactly. The essence of her statement is racist and sexist. She said “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences [(as if white men don’t have richness of experience)] would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” ‘More often than not’ means that white men make worse choices more often than Hispanic women. You can’t twist her words, they’re on record.

Rick Frazee

To the Editor:

Agreed with most of the article – which I enjoyed reading – but I’m not sure if you can use the term “prove” with just this one example. Of course, this example strongly supports what Sotomayor’s statements though.

Victor Ly

To the Editor:

I grew up in North Beach, and hung out in the play ground and the library. I feel sad that in our own history of the way North Beach used to be, we are always trying to change. Why can’t we improve what is already there and leave our old buildings there. We are always trying to put up new, and therefore we let go of our our own heritage. North Beach back in the day was a very good place to grow up. We had a grocery store on Lombard and Stockton street for years as I was growing up.

Although I moved out of the city quite a few years ago, I still had family that still lived there. Always a good place to come back to. So why is it the the United states and North Beach is always trying to tear down the old building and make new ones? We can modernize the city and keep some of our landmarks and what makes San Francisco unique.

Sandy Bernardoni

To the Editor:

The North Beach Library didn’t originally have the Triangle lot in mind for a new library until last year, after all the new bond money became available. But in March 2008, architects were given a $1.5M contract to design a new library for the lot – still owned by Rec & Park – and cease the remodeling plan for the old library.

Meanwhile, insiders at both agencies were working behind the scenes to transfer the lot, and they succeeded in Sept 2008. Token public meetings to choose between plans had been held but the architects were already receiving thousands of dollars to design a large, new library on the lot that had legally been designated for open space. Now more thousands are spent to close Mason Street for a traffic study, jazzing it up w/greenery to imply a park that can never be. When will there be a Whistleblower suit to stop the money drain?

Joan Wood

To the Editor:

I have a friend who is employed by Toyota TLS in Fremont California. He doesn’t work for Nummi, and is not a union worker. He is a full fledged Toyota employee. He was told there are no relocation programs anywhere, although, the San Antonio plant will be hiring 1100 workers, and the Fremont plant only has 75 workers. What the heck? Basically, you are all unemployed as of March 31. We have no openings (shocking!), and I have lost respect for Toyota. And will be buying American cars from now on.

James Holister

To the Editor:

I’m a laid off auto worker from Flint, MI. All I can say is right on! You hit it on the head! Unions created the middle class, the minimum wage, the weekend, unemployment, child labor laws and pay equity for men and women in unionized shops. These companies are not only destroying the middle class blue collar worker, but themselves. Because as union jobs decline so do wages and so does consumer spending and therefore the companies that those wages support. Toyota’s image is a farce. They are greedy corporations, just as much as the other auto makers.

Sean Crawford

To the Editor:

They way Toyota played out the closure of Nummi was by all means a slap in the face to the workers. The way they were being informed through CONTROLLED leaks to the media is probably how they will learn of severance pay if any. I am married to a Nummi worker, and he loved his job. The morale is at a all time low and without a doubt will get worse when it nears closure. “Respect the workers” was definitley left off of their agenda. Life will go on but it saddens me that it will not be without hardships for many.

Gale Stillwell

An Astroturf Campaign by Toyota?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Besides the three pro-worker letters on the Nummi plant closing we have published above, Beyond Chron received a huge number of letters in support of the Toyota Corporation — far more than the amount of feedback we regularly get for such articles. All the letters appeared to repeat the very same talking points, and one of these letters was sent by Irv Miller — who happens to be the top P.R. guy at Toyota. In fairness, Beyond Chron has published all of these letters — and readers can make up their own mind if they believe this is was an intentional astroturf campaign on the part of the Toyota Corporation. Nate Warner’s comments that he wrote beneath his story that “my thoughts are mine and mine alone, and I didn’t necessarily write them all” was particularly bizarre.

Hey Randy,

Let’s set the record straight. Toyota did not close the NUMMI plant. Toyota does not own the NUMMI plant. NUMMI is a corporation that is jointly owned by Toyota and MLC (“Bad” GM). Once GM decided that the operation was not viable, they included the “asset” in the liquidation corporation. Since the partnership was no longer possible, Toyota announced last Thursday that they would no longer purchase production from the plant after March 31, 2010.

The NUMMI board of directors will determine if and when the plant closes. What the severance benefits will be for team members and all other decisions surrounding the operation. If you wish to follow interesting developments and how the workers are treated, lets see how active GM/MLC is in participating in funding the severance and retirement packages of the folks at NUMMI that built vehicles for them for 25 years!

Irv Miller
Vice President, Environmental & Public Affairs
Toyota Corporation

To the Editor:

1st: Toyota has seen backlash from this closure. The real question is, “why hasn’t GM seen more of a backlash?” GM’s pulling out of the deal caused the mess, all the while taking a lot more money from taxpayers than Toyota got from the CARS program.

2nd: If anything, the media has been over-glorigying American cars lately. Read MotorTrend 2 years ago, and compare it to today\’s peices about how amazing the Volt & Malibu are.

3rd: This is not “Toyota’s factory.” This is GM’s factory, which Toyota helped re-open as a joint-venture. NUMMI is incorporated and owned 50/50 w/GM (now MLC). The “visitors” where actually Toyota, not the workers.

4th: The media has never blamed the UAW for anything. Liberal media goes hand-in-hand with the “little guy” image the UAW expouses to represent. If they had balls, they would put their uselessness on the front page. Businesses cannot treat workers poorly, or leave them with unsafe conditions, or pay them terrible wages – a myriad laws protect them. Unions are useless in anything but freelance occupations.

5th: ” … equate morality with the lowest price …” What does that even mean? Nike, nor Whole Foods, nor Toyota are the cheapest game in town – quite the opposite, in fact.

Your strange, meandering article is off-track.

Brian Jones

Disclosure: I am a long-time GM fan, and I now work for a (non-union) Toyota subsidiary that will likely die due to NUMMI’s closing (i.e., this may put me out of a job).

To the Editor:

So the argument being made here is that Toyota is basically spending political capital on closing a plant? And that that makes them cold hearted nasty people? This seems a stretch at best.

And GM’s role in all of this?

If you were married and bought a house together, then got divorced, would you be able to keep the house or have to find someone else to buy it? In some cases, you might be able to keep it. In an economy like this one, where you had taken a 30%+ cut in income (i.e.: 30%+ drop in sales), I doubt you’d be able to keep the bank from coming for a conversation.

Once a decision has to be made like that, all parties follow the contract in a unionized setting. In the mutually agreed contract, apparently there was no provision for rehire priority or severace as implied in the article. However, NUMMI has to deal with the contract just the same as the UAW does.

The bed has been made. Now lay in it.

Nate Warner

(All my comments above: don’t let anyone mislead you into thinking I don’t have compassion for the individuals involved. My thoughts are mine and mine alone, and I didn’t necessarily write them all.)

To the Editor:

You forgot to mention in your article that GM was the initiator of the plant closing. GM decided, not Toyota, to cancel their portion of the contract. Thus, leading Toyota with no option but to close the plant.

Toyota does not employee any of the non-exempt workers i.e. line workers or UAW workers. How do you expect Toyota to offer jobs to the NUMMI workers if their own plant (San Antonio, TX) has an excess of workers currently.

I mean really. Let’s think about this. They have two shifts of team members working on one shift currently. The Tacoma production will give them the opportunity to attempt to come back into profitability. That being said, do you really think that the NUMMI team members will accept the 30-40k pay decrease to move to San Antonio, TX even if Toyota did offered them a package? Get Serious!

Kevin Roon

To the Editor:

It’s funny how people want to blame this whole thing on Toyota. Do people really forget that GM walked away from this plant during the UAW takeover? If I was the CEO of Toyota, I would be running too. Nobody wants to talk about the conflicts of interest that will appear due to the UAW now owning portions of GM and Chrysler. How can Toyota and Ford compete with a GM or Chrysler, when the owners of those companies can control the direct labor costs of its competitors?

I have heard rumblings that Ford wants further concessions from the UAW because GM and Chrysler are paying less money to its union members. If Ford had any guts, it would tell the UAW to pound sand and go on strike. Then we will see how frivolously they wasted the union dues on political gamesmanship and if they can pay their striking employees.

Denis McCormick

To the Editor:

Hold the phone. Since when are NUMMI employees employed by Toyota? NUMMI was a partnership of Toyota AND GM. I notice you are not carping about GM not giving NUMMI workers any benefits nor hiring them elsewhere.

NUMMI people are not Toyota workers; to expect them to be offered jobs as Toyota workers is silly, even when one disregards the fact that Toyota is not a union shop, and NUMMI was. It is also silly to expect San Franciscans to appreciate an offer to work in Texas, if one were to be made, due to the difference in cultures.

J.G. Lee

To the Editor:

I read your article and felt that it was so extremely one-sided that I could not let it pass without comment. You begin the article by stating that Toyota is a “wealthy corporation” without citing any statistics to back up that rhetoric. A quick look at their financials shows that the company lost 77.8 billion yen in the last quarter, and 436.9 billion yen for the last year. While I’m sure they have a lot of assets, these massive losses show them to be in much the same predicament as other global automotive companies, and can hardly be categorized as “wealthy” by any reasonable standard.

You go on to state that Toyota benefited from the federal cash for clunkers program, as if that were in isolation or in exception to other car companies, but in reality all companies were eligible to participate, with only the purchased vehicle’s performance characteristics as the qualifier. It’s ironic that you cite Toyota as having a more fuel efficient line-up, yet excoriate them for selling a large number of cars under the program, as if that in itself is somehow shameful.

You go on to state that Toyota is among the corporations promoting “greater economic inequality” without any supporting evidence, other than the fact that they have avoided being saddled with the UAW (other than in the NUMMI plant). It is quite possible (even likely) that neither Toyota nor GM actually made a profit (sorry for the dirty word here) on the cars made at the NUMMI plant. High costs for labor, taxes, power and transportation made that nearly impossible. When Toyota’s manufacturing partner abandoned the partnership, even the benefit of shared costs evaporated. The venture simply collapsed under the weight of its expenses, coupled with an historically bad economy.

Just because Toyota does not use union labor in its remaining plants does not make them a corporate “bad actor” in the eyes of the buying public. No company is perfect, but Toyota does what large companies should all strive to do: provide high quality products to consumers at a competitive price. It’s unfortunate that you choose to ignore the positive aspects of the company simply because the company does not support your outmoded, 19th century view of social justice.

Jay Edelman

To the Editor:

Your article states that there has been no media coverage. I would disagree, I have seen plenty, including your article. But the real story is that while NUMMI employees can’t transfer because they are not Toyota employees, there is a Toyota facility on the same site, tucked behind and those “Toyota” associates were also told they would not be transferred. But these are the times of an economy that Toyota did not make, it would be nice to make them the monster, but the real monsters are the banks that saturated the markey with easy money, caused and bubble that burst so ugly all over the world.

Sue Dobbs

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