SACRAMENTO — Toyota Motor is closing Fremont's NUMMI automobile plant, but that isn't keeping the factory from asking the state for $2 million in taxpayer money for recent training that made some of its workers better car builders.
The automaker says it deserves to be paid back money it spent on training this year at the plant, the state's last auto factory, under a Feb. 27 agreement with the state's Employment Training Panel.
But critics are incensed, noting that workers will have nowhere in the state to make use of their training.
"This has the appearance of some kind of dreadful corporate welfare," said Barry Broad, a labor union lobbyist who serves as the panel's acting chairman.
The Employment Training Panel hands out funds to companies that want to improve or expand their work forces. The $2 million payment is being sought by New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., which was launched as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors to build cars at the Fremont plant.
Toyota for now is the sole participant in the 25-year-old plant. In July, General Motors announced it would pull out of the partnership. Toyota said Aug. 27 that it would shutter the giant facility.
But NUMMI still wants the training money, saying its managers entered into an agreement with the state panel five months before the decision by General Motors.
The plant is scheduled to close March 31, putting about 4,700 people out of work.
"These skills have made our team members greater contributors to NUMMI and will make them more attractive to prospective employers when they conclude their employment here in April 2010," the company said in a statement.