OAKLAND, Calif. – In nearly two decades working at the NUMMI auto plant, Lynn Chess has been able to buy a house, fund her children’s college education and even afford luxuries such as a 2008 cruise she took with family and friends.
“The job had actually been really good to me,” said Chess, 53, who expected to work at the Fremont, Calif., plant until her retirement.
But Chess isn’t likely to have that chance. Earlier this year, Toyota announced it would stop making vehicles at the plant in the Bay Area, soon after its former partner General Motors also pulled out. The decision to stop production in March means Chess, her two sisters, a brother-in-law and a nephew will be among the approximately 4,700 workers expected to lose their jobs.
“It’s just really, really bad right now,” she said. “I don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel.”
More than 2 million workers have lost their jobs in manufacturing since the recession began in December 2007, and many of those jobs are not expected to return even as the economy recovers. That is a big concern for all Americans, but the disappearance of so many solid working-class jobs with benefits could be especially devastating to black workers.
Manufacturing jobs have historically been an important path to the middle class for black families, but blacks have been losing those jobs at a faster clip than other workers in recent years, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank.