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United Auto Workers Union Goes on Strike During Negotiations with General Motors; Some Members of Trump Administration Blame Iran for Attacks on Saudi Oil Fields. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The strike is affecting more than 50 GM facilities across the United States. The union and GM are set to go back to the negotiating table in about two hours. We're going to speak live with one of the union negotiators in just a moment.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, the president says the U.S. is locked and loaded after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields. About 6 million barrels of oil a day, that's half the Saudi's capacity, were knocked out in that coordinated strike. Stock futures at this point pointing to the Dow opening down this morning amid fears that spiking oil prices could lead to a slowdown of the global economy. We'll have more on that just ahead.

BERMAN: We're going to start with the United Auto Workers Strike. Nearly 50,000 on the picket line this morning. Joining us now is Terry Dittes, vice president of the United Mobile Workers Union and lead negotiator with General Motors. Terry, thank you very much for being with us this morning. You head back into negotiations in two hours. What's your message to GM this morning?

TERRY DITTES, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKERS (UAW): Thank you. We have outstanding issues that we still need to resolve, and we are committed to do that. We are hopeful that this morning General Motors is also committed to sit down and bridge that gap and address all the issues that are still currently on the bargaining table.

BERMAN: So General Motors put out a statement, and it's unusual for them, by the way, to reveal what they have offered, but their statement said, "We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits, and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways, and it's disappointing the UAW leadership has chosen to strike. We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our businesses.

They say they've offered new money, they said they have made some offers having to do with some of the plants that they've closed. What more do you want from them?

DITTES: So let me just state for the record that only two percent of our proposals have been tentatively agreed to. And let me make a comment on details regarding negotiations. We in the union do not negotiate in the press, and I think most people that are in the press that are reporters respect that. I have been asked numerous times about details specific to negotiations. In all my years, I have never disclosed those details outside the bargaining table. That is an issue that when we meet this morning, that we are going to have continued conversation amongst each other about that type of tactic. That is not something we do in the union. That is not something we will do. So I am not here to disclose any details or specifics of that contract.

BERMAN: Talk to me about Lordstown, this is the plant, the Cruz plant that was shut down. What do you want? Do you want GM to reopen that plant?

DITTES: Well, we are focused on job security for some 50,000 members and their families. There are several plants that are unallocated, but the theme of job security and secured employment is what we have been talking about time and time again after and during these negotiations. One of the plants right behind me, where you see the marching UAW members, is the Hamtramck plant. They are on that list to potentially not have product for years to come. So there are four, and there may be additional, but in November 26th, 2018, four of them were announced.

Specific details on each one I will not get into. What I will tell you is that it has always within a priority for the UAW to sustain job security in any one of our agreements, and we are going to continue to have those discussions. As far as specific details on Lordstown or any of the others, I'm not at liberty to talk about them. But we will continue to talk about job security as we get back to the bargaining table.

BERMAN: So the president, President Trump, put out a statement overnight. He said "Here we go again with General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Get together and make a deal." How does that help in your negotiations?

DITTES: So I am not sure how it helps, but here's what I do know. We are committed to reach a tentative agreement. When we start back in negotiations, I am sure that we will be refocused to do so, just that. I didn't read the quote from the president and, quite frankly, we're very focused on these negotiations, the people behind us, their families, the communities, and, quite frankly, these American jobs, because for every autoworker here, there are seven additional jobs attached to what they do. That is the big picture.


BERMAN: Terry, let me ask you this --

DITTES: So we plan to roll up our sleeves and get back at it. Yes, sir?

BERMAN: Terry, as you know, there is an investigation into some members of the UAW leadership and allegations of corruption. What do you want UAW members to know about how that is affecting these negotiations? DITTES: So that is not affecting these negotiations whatsoever. We

remain focused. I have met with the staff as a part of our negotiating team several times. They are focused on the end result. They are focused on the people behind me and in plants all over the country. Our focus is not on those things. Those things will take care of themselves. They will be sorted out. That has not affected our negotiations one bit, not a single bit. We are there to negotiate. And I am focused on it as is all the UAW GM staff and the top negotiators around the country.

BERMAN: Terry Dittes thank you for joining us this morning and keeping us posted. I know it's loud there. We wish you the best as you head back to negotiate this morning in two hours. A lot of people have their jobs on the line.

DITTES: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: So thank you, sir. Erica?

HILL: President Trump is hinting at military action after Saturday's attack on Saudi oil fields, saying the U.S. is, quote, locked and loaded. Several in the Trump administration blaming Iran. Tehran denies any involvement. Joining us now is CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour. And Christiane, as we look at this, the president is saying locked and loaded, Lindsey Graham saying it's time to put attacks on Iranian oil refineries on the table. The president, though, was very clear, we need to wait for the Saudi assessment of what they believe actually happened here. Once we have that, what could we see in terms of action?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Look, it's very, very difficult to know because this is a very high stakes, high- profile, dramatic negotiating table, if I can say that, in that region. As you know, the Iranians and the Americans have been in this headlock of each trying to get their way for many, many months, especially since the sanctions have started to really bite.

Now, according to the U.S. officials who have seen the satellite pictures that were released by the administration, there was some 19 highly accurate, pin-pick strikes according to U.S. officials and analysts who know how to read these things, on this very important Saudi infrastructure. It has hit a very, very important and very public element of not just the Saudi economy, oil, but also the U.S. economy, oil. And I have been talking to my sources who say that this is part of a strategy where they don't know who actually did this, and nobody is saying who did it, because the U.S. isn't saying it yet definitively, Saudis have said nothing, Iranians have denied it, Europeans are not blaming Iran at the moment.

So what is the strategy? According to my sources, it is to show the United States that, quote, maximum pressure isn't working and that until the U.S. takes the Iranian demands seriously to ease or lift sanctions, Iran won't get serious about de-escalating. According to the French officials who, as you know, have been in touch with the Iranians trying to broker some kind of de-escalation with the United States, that's what Iran is looking for, de-escalation, and not necessarily a meeting with President Trump.

So these are all the bits and bobs that are floating around in this very, very, as I said, high stakes, dramatic, and possible miscalculation over how the Iran-U.S. relationship is going to go forward. Erica?

BERMAN: I think all the words you're using are dead on, high stakes and dramatic. To attack a facility like this in the heart of Saudi Arabia is just not something we have seen. And Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, has basically said he blames Iran from this. How unusual would it be, Christiane, for Iran to launch this kind of strike directly? This isn't how they usually operate.

AMANPOUR: That's exactly right. I went back into the archives, I asked someone to look it up. It wasn't -- 1984 when Iranian jets breached Saudi airspace and were shot down, so nothing actually happened. This was in the height of the post-revolutionary antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nothing like this has happened since. Iran was blamed for the 1995 Khobar attacks against a U.S. military installation inside Saudi Arabia, but since then nothing like this has happened.

And what you have, though, is the Houthis, which are occasionally, perhaps often backed by Iran, taking responsibility, and various sides believing that, because the Houthis have actually successfully penetrated Saudi airspace and Saudi territory over the years that the Saudis have been launching with the U.S. help this war on Yemen.

But of course if these satellite images are correct and this came from the north and it was either Iran, unlikely, more likely potentially from Iraq, then that is, according to my sources, an additional message to the United States that their economy is vulnerable, and that they want to be taken seriously.


And that it's not all about a meeting. In fact, apparently, according to my source, the Supreme Leader of Iran doesn't necessarily want a meeting even though the Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin just this last week said that President Trump was willing to have a meeting no conditions with the Iranian president.

So you've got a lot of sort of mixed signals in terms of verbally from the U.S., but you have at the heart of it what to do. And people are pointing again at the strikes that took place, limited strikes, remember, on those tankers in the Persian Gulf over July. That again was a message, and according to my sources, with plausible deniability, but those were aimed at breaking the UAE, the Emirates, from their position with the Saudi Arabians and the U.S. And that seems to have been successful.

HILL: Christiane Amanpour for us, and we should point out, as Christiane pointed out in terms of mixed messaging, Steve Mnuchin and Secretary Pompeo saying no conditions, the president now pushing back on that which he has said in the past as well. Christiane, thank you. Is President Trump afraid of a little competition? The three

Republicans challenging President Trump in 2020 now suggesting he is, and one of them joins us next.



HILL: Three of President Trump's 2020 Republican challengers writing an op-ed in "The Washington Post" criticizing the decision by Republican Parties in four states, including Nevada and South Carolina to cancel their primary elections. Joining us now is Republican presidential candidate, Joe Walsh, former Republican Congressman from Illinois. Good to have you back with us this morning.


HILL: In this piece, which you wrote with Bill Weld and Rick Sanford, you call the decision to cancel the primaries un-American. We should point out though, it has been done before, as you know, by both parties, why do you say it's different now in 2019?

WALSH: Because it's never been done when there's been primary challenges. Look, we can't be numb to this. And I know it's difficult because this President seemingly every day, attacks our democracy, but we have to be outraged.

And I always want to pinch myself and remind myself that this isn't Russia. I do not live in Russia. I refuse to live in Russia. We can't just cancel elections in this country. That's what Donald Trump is doing. He is literally canceling elections.

And it's very easy to be pissed off at Trump. But we're used to this with Trump. He is a would-be dictator. He would like this to be Russia.

I've got to tell you, I'm blown away in my disappointment with the Republican Party who is in cahoots with this President in again, literally eliminating elections.

HILL: So as you know, some of these states have said, "Listen, there's no reason to bear this cost when there is no real contest at stake." And in the most recent CNN polling, we should point out among Republicans, an 88 percent approval rating for the President, approve of the job he is doing, 84 percent want to see the President reelected? How do you respond to those numbers? And -- go ahead.

WALSH: What cost -- yes, no, I was going to say, what costs do we put on disenfranchising voters? We continue to put up that number -- 88 percent of Republicans support Trump. Look, that support is soft, and that support wants an alternative and that support is sick and tired of this President's daily assault on our democracy.

I guarantee you that if you polled Republican voters in those four states -- South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Kansas -- and you told them that the President of the United States just took away their right to vote in 2020, I guarantee you, most Republicans would be against that.

Kevin McCarthy, my former colleague this weekend in Baltimore, he said, and I quote, "The Republican Party has never been this strong and this united." Does a strong United Party cancel elections?

HILL: So let me ask you, then, beyond writing this op-ed, what is your plan? How do you plan to challenge it?

WALSH: To go right to the voters, look, I've given up on the Republican Party. The Republican Party is a cult, right? They no longer stand for ideas. The Republican Party right now is all about washing their leader's feet every day. That's what they do.

We are going to take our campaign directly to Republican voters, and I'll add in all 50 states, we're going to campaign in all 50 states. We're going to campaign in South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Kansas, because I believe if we let these Republican voters know that the President of the United States just took away their right to vote, they'll march on the headquarters of their state parties to get that right to vote back. We're going to go right to Republican voters.

HILL: As you're going right to Republican voters, I know you have been -- had recent meetings with George Conway, who as we know is no fan of the President's. Mark Sanford also hinting that he had been speaking with George Conway. He is an adviser right now, as I understand it for you. He does not have a formal role in your campaign. How much though, are all three of you in conversations with George Conway? How much is he helping each one of you as candidates?

WALSH: Look, all I can do is speak for myself, and all I can do is speak to George Conway. He is a great American, a great patriot. It takes courage for George Conway to say right now about what this President that he says.

Look, I'd be honored to have George Conway's support. I'd be honored to have any influential concerned American's support right now, who will join me in acknowledging that this President is unfit. George Conway believes that this President is unfit and I do as well, I think and George thinks most Republicans deep down believe that as well.


HILL: As part of this op-ed, you write, "Cowards run from fights. Warriors stand and fight for what they believe. The United States respects warriors, only the weak fear competition." Who specifically are the cowards that you're referring to?

WALSH: The Republican Party and the President of the United States. Look, Donald Trump is a bully. You and I know that bullies are cowards. Therefore, Donald Trump is a coward. And all of these Republicans in the Republican Party who have abandoned everything they believe in, right? Free and fair competition, the marketplace of ideas. They've abandoned all of that again, to wash this President's feet every day. They're cowards as well.

HILL: Joe Walsh, good to talk to you. Thank you. WALSH: Thank you.

HILL: John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The big debate in college sports -- should student athletes be compensated when their schools are profiting off of them. We will speak with the proponent of a new law that would get these students some money. That's next.



BERMAN: It is a debate that has embroiled college athletics for years -- should student athletes be allowed to receive some compensation for their efforts? California Senate passed the Fair Pay to Play Act which would allow college athletes to earn money for endorsements. Now this is in direct violation of NCAA rules and now other states could follow suit.

Joining me now is Ramogi Huma. He is the Executive Director of the National College Players Association, which co-sponsored the California Bill, thank you so much for being with us. I think this is such an important discussion, and I think people need to understand the issues at play here.

But first off, you call it dehumanizing for the NCAA to deny students the freedom to benefit from their sports. Explain this -- dehumanizing?

RAMOGI HUMA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COLLEGE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: Well, I think that the notion that college athlete's identity, name, image and likeness can be owned completely by NCAA Sports is dehumanizing.

You know, at the end of the day, college athletes are people, they're not University property. And in addition to that, they should not be denied the rights and liberties afforded to other students on campus, other California residents or the citizens in this country.

So absolutely, actually, my background, one of my teammates was suspended over groceries that he ate and the NCAA said, "Well, you used your name image likeness, because you were talking on the radio station about how you were hungry and broke."

They suspended him and meanwhile, the school was selling his jersey in the student store, capitalizing off of his name, image, and likeness. So that's just one example of many that really makes it dehumanizing.

BERMAN: That is sort of the quintessential example of how a school will profit by selling a jersey with the name of a player on it and the player gets nothing for it.

Now, the NCAA has a different take on this. They wrote a letter Gavin Newsom, who will have to sign the Bill in California for it to become law. And they say that the Bill, " ... would be erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics, and because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage will result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions." How do you respond to that?

HUMA: Well, first and foremost, when it talks about professionalizing college sports, NCAA amateurism is an absolute fraud. You know, the notion that this is just, you know, a high school basketball league, it is not. This is a $14 billion a year industry with millionaire coaches. UCLA has an Under Armour deal with $280 million, and in turn require players to wear the Under Armour logo to basically serve as walking billboards for this company.

It is not amateur athletics and to use that as a justification is ridiculous. In terms of a level playing field, multiple court rulings have shown that there is not a level playing field currently in NCAA Sports with the current restrictions.

You have 99 percent of the top recruits go into the Power Five Conferences, which in turn win 90 percent of the championship. So neither any kind of justification is valid to strip players of equal rights and protections.

BERMAN: But there could be an interstate commerce issue from a purely legal standpoint if California has one law, typically, the courts have ruled that one state can't dictate commerce for the entire country.

HUMA: Well, that does not apply in certain matters when that rule does not have to be uniform, and in this case, college athlete compensation already is not uniform.

In the same division, in Division One, you have Ivy League players who get zero dollars going up against some of the private school athletes on five-year scholarships that are getting $300,000.00 over five years. You have players on the same team, in some cases have no scholarship, a full scholarship or partial scholarship on the same team.

So already, it does not apply. It doesn't have to be uniform. And in matters of local public interest in the State of California, working to protect their players' Civil Rights, that all trumps NCAA -- any kind of notion that NCAA can control California.

BERMAN: So what about the Title 9 implication here? Because most of these proposals deal with compensation having to do with endorsements and likeness if male athletes are receiving more money because it's their jerseys that are being sold at a higher rate. Does that raise questions about fairness for some of the female athletes?

HUMA: Well, actually, I think this is going to be a big step forward for female athletes. If there was anything that the schools do, they have to do for female athletes, first of all. That's Title 9. That's the law, if that's the case.

Any outside money is fair game for anybody. You know, one of the best examples is Katie Ledecky who is a five-time gold medalist swimmer for Stanford. She basically had to leave college sports in order to get any endorsement money, which deprives female athletes in their platforms to actually grow the sport and so I think it's going to be a big step forward.

And also the NCAA, if you look at Title 9, one of the things this Bill does is to allow college athletes to get sports agents and have legal representation. The NCAA recently made moves to allow only male athletes, some of the male athletes for college basketball to have sports agents and denies every female athlete the same right.

We can't follow the NCAA. The NCAA has shown, it has been a bad actor with --