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Biden Calls For More Pay, Protection For Essential Workers; Domingo Garcia, LULAC President, Discusses The Civil Rights Group Calling For Meat Boycott Amid Push For More Protections For Workers; J. Crew Files For Bankruptcy As Virus Ravages Retailers; Coronavirus Headlines From Around The World. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[13:34:21]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Former Vice President Joe Biden today calling for more protection for essential workers, especially those in the food industry. Biden taking part in a virtual town hall with the League of United Latin American Citizens, the LULAC. Last hour, the former vice president says meat packing plants are among the most dangerous environments right now and workers deserve more pay and more protection.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They designate them as essential workers and treat them as disposable. It's quite frankly, inhumane and downright immoral because these workers are essential to our society, not just in times of crisis but always.

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[13:35:07]

KING: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins me now.

Arlette, what specifically is the vice president saying about the need to protect these workers?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Joe Biden talks about these measures he wants to see taken for essentially workers. He's saying the conditions many of them are facing, comparing that to a war zone. He's specifically cited nursing homes and meat packing plants as being some of the places with the most dangerous conditions for essential workers.

And he ran through a number of steps he would like to see. He would like to see extra premium pay for essential workers as well as complete access to PPE and also access to rapid results testing. He also wants there to be stricter OSHA enforcement standards as well as paid sick leave for these workers.

Take a listen for a bit of a message he had for President Trump during this town hall.

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BIDEN: I want Donald Trump to look at one of these essential workers in the eye, the meat packers, delivery drivers, health care workers, grocery store clerks, and tell them they don't deserve a minimum wage, paid sick leave.

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SAENZ: Now as Biden also listened to some of the stories and concerns for people in the town hall, he tried to connect on that personal level, saying he understands the concerns and worries people may have of their own families in the coronavirus, but he understands what it is to have concerns for people like that, given his own past history with his family's health.

These are all contrasts that Biden has tried to make with the president over the past few weeks on the empathy scale and policy as we are six months out from the election -- John?

KING: Six months out.

Arlette Saenz, appreciate your reporting on the former vice president's day. Thank you very much.

The League of United Latin American Citizens is also launching what it calls Meatless May Monday, calling on people to not consume or purchase any meat products once a week as part of their push for more protections for workers in the meat processing facilities.

Joining me now is Domingo Garcia, the president of LULAC.

Sir, thank you so much for being us today.

You are calling for people to essentially protest, don't eat meat or don't buy meat once a week as a symbolic gesture to prove your stance with the workers.

I want you to listen to the president of the United States last night. He signed an executive order telling these companies to keep these plants open. Let's listen first and I'll ask if you agree with his take.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The companies really wanted it and the employees have to want to work. If they don't want to work, that's one thing, but they are working and they need the money. And the company is doing great. They're great companies.

I think it is all working out.

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KING: Is it all working out? Are these great companies in your view? DOMINGO GARCIA, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN

CITIZENS: Well, tell that to the family of a worker, a 78-year-old worker who died last week working at a plant that did not give him the adequate protection and another person who died in Dallas, Texas, at a sausage plant.

They're not being given adequate protection. In order to protect America's food supply, we've got to protect America's food workers. We can't keep sending them into harm's way. If we treat them as frontline workers, essential workers, we need to give them those protections.

We are trying to negotiate with the plants but President Trump is not being helpful when he says we are going to send you in there and, by the way, you have to risk your life by dying.

Over 20 workers have died in the last week or so and over 5,000 have tested positive in plants all over the country.

KING: We'll a map up. We've been going through this the last couple of weeks and it is almost everywhere you look, if you look at a map of where factories that are either shutdown or had COVID outbreaks in them, responsible for big spikes in cases. You can see there it is all over middle America and around other places of America.

Here's one of the reasons there's such concern. The LULAC says these meat plant and processing plant workers,, 35 percent of them, are Hispanics and 20 percent of them are African-Americans.

As you make the case here, what is the feedback you are getting from the workers? You say protective gear, what else?

GARCIA: They need to slow down the kill factory and there's an assembly line. Workers are usually right next to each other and that's what's causing -- one of the most dangerous place in America today is to be in a nursing home or meat packing. That's because of the speed of the line of produce, meat or pork or chicken, that's being processed. Those need to be slowed down.

You need to put Plexiglas to do social distancing for workers. And the most important part, you need to test every worker. If a worker tests positive, send him or her home and make sure they get sick pay. A lot of these workers don't get sick pay right now if they take time off work.

That way, you can continue the production in a safe manner and, at the same time, those workers who are sick are put into quarantine and their families are protected. And, right now, that's not happening and it's having tragic consequences. Right now, over 20 deaths just the last week.

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KING: When you say that's not happening right now, obviously, you don't think the companies are acting quickly enough, whether it is personal protective gear or putting in Plexiglass, whether it's ramping up tests at the plant? Are there any governors, you would look at the map, and say this

governor has jumped up and prove he or she wants to help, others not so much?

GARCIA: I'll tell you what, one of the most immoral acts a president has ever done is what Donald Trump did last week when he put down all the meat packing plants under the war production act saying they have to remain open.

We had put pressure, for example, on Colorado. The governor and the local health director closed down the plant. Now those governors and county health directors in Iowa or in Moore County, Texas, which have the largest number of COVID-19 increases, and in Iowa, in Texas, Cactus, Texas, where the meat packing plants are. And those are spreading in dramatically huge fashion in those neighborhoods and communities.

Yet, President Trump says they remain open and the governor and the local county health officials can't do anything about it. That's one of the most immoral, un-Christian and un-American asks by any of the presidents in the United States, except maybe the internment of the Japanese in World War II.

KING: We'll continue to follow the story.

Domingo Garcia, appreciate your time today and your insights today you're your concern for these workers. Thank you, sir.

GARCIA: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

One of the world's biggest meat processors, Tyson Foods, says it expect more plants to close this year. The company says it will produce less meat than usual as facilities slow down or go idle and workers stop coming into work.

The pandemic has cut the amount of pork processing capacity in the country in half. Tyson said, on their earnings call today, demand is still up for pork and beef compared to the first three months of last year.

When we come back, the economic impact of the pandemic hitting American businesses and hitting them hard.

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[13:46:31]

KING: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top expert on the coronavirus, is now warning business leaders to, quote, "overshoot" on safety precautions. We're told, in a recent call with CEOs, Dr. Fauci expressed he is concerned about a possible resurgence of more COVID-19 cases in the fall.

His message to businesses: Keep social distancing and wear masks and don't rely on antibody testing as a prerequisite to reopening. Fauci also expressed similar reservations about temperature screenings. Reminding the CEOs that temperature checks only work for people who are exhibiting symptoms.

New troubling signs for the American economy. Seven in 10 Americans say the economy is recession or a depression. That is no double influenced by the fact that 30 million jobs have been killed by the coronavirus since the middle of March.

More pain today on the retail front. J. Crew filing for bankruptcy.

CNN's Julia Chatterley is joining us from New York.

Julia, J. Crew, first. I assume the concern is will other being falling behind.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. J. Crew is the first domino here. There's a theory that more will follow. There's a bankruptcy watch list now the retail sector. Just think of names like Sears, J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus to name a few.

They have some key traits in common. They have incredibly high debt levels. They've also struggled with online sales. This is the key. The virus is just the final push here. We're clearly buying more online. We're not even going into stores because many of them are shut.

This is the key part. We know what the future will be like. As you were mentioning, what protections need to be in place for consumers. So it is making bankruptcy likely. It's also making bankruptcy harder to achieve.

Going forward, I think there's a couple of critical things to watch. There are different bankruptcies. Some companies come out meaner and some never emerged from bankruptcy at all. J. Crew will be one of the lucky ones. They're still sell online in the interim.

The problem is this is affecting 29 million Americans. John, the timing is awful. We don't know what the future looks like. And for many of these companies, they're not going to be good stories. And instead of emerging stronger, they may not emerge at all.

KING: The economic sector is much like the medical piece of this story. Every day it grows and grows and not encouraging at all.

Julia Chatterley, appreciate your reporting there.

[13:48:58]

When we come back, the latest coronavirus developments around the world.

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[13:53:41]

KING: The future of international travel remains up in the air, excuse the pun, as countries in other parts of the world begin reopening.

Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin asked about the situation on FOX Business this morning.

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MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK ANCHOR: Do you think international travel will be open this year?

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY (voice-over): Too hard to tell, Maria. I hope down the road it is. But I'd say we're taking this -- our priority is opening up the domestic economy. Obviously, for businesspeople that do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis.

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KING: Secretary Mnuchin said President Trump is interested in stimulating domestic travel once the economy begins to open back up.

On the international front, Spain has now seen a record low number of new infections for the second day in a row. And in Japan, the government extended its state of emergency through the end of the month.

We get more headlines now from around the globe from our international correspondents.

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BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here in Italy, the country is starting to take its first delicate steps in the gradual reopening after two months under a draconian lockdown. As of today, about four million people can go back to work. These are people who couldn't work from home.

Restaurants and coffee bars, like behind me, are able to offer takeout service. Something we haven't had here. Parks are open. People able to exercise more than about 900 feet from their homes.

[13:55:06]

And churches are able to offer funeral services and memorial services for the first time. Nearly 29,000 people have died in this country from the pandemic.

If everything goes well and we don't see resurgence in the number of cases, on May 18, retail shops can finally open. And once again, if things continue to go well after that, by June 1st, restaurants should be able to start serving table service and we might be able to go to the beach.

Barbie Nadeau, CNN, Rome.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's almost no place in Europe where you can see the coronavirus induced crisis in the world east aviation industry than here at the hub of Europe's largest airline, Lufthansa, at Frankfurt in Germany.

You can see behind me a lot of parked planes. Those planes are not getting revenue right now but those planes still cost a lot of money. Lufthansa has to pay all the pilots, the ground staff, manage the fuel. And obviously, these planes still require a minimum amount of service as well.

The airline says, right now, it's flying at less than 1 percent of its usual capacity. So normally, they have about 350,000 passengers every day. Right now, they say that's around 3,000 passengers that they have every day, just to put that into perspective.

Now, Lufthansa says that it needs government assistance. It says that it doesn't necessarily only need that assistance to get through this crisis, but also to be competitive after the crisis ends.

And one of the reasons for that is that other airlines here in Europe and around the world have already secured government assistance. You look, for instance, at Air France and KLN, who are loans and payroll assistance from the respective governments of France and the Netherlands. The U.S. airlines are also getting assistance from the Trump administration as well.

Lufthansa said it's confident that it can get through this crisis. But they do say that it is going to take several years and this airline could look a lot different than it did before the coronavirus crisis.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Frankfurt, Germany.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling on countries around the world to unite together to fight and defeat the coronavirus. Saying this is a battle that pits humanity against the virus.

He said the number-one way to destroy COVID-19 is to come up with a vaccine. Of course, the U.K. is one of the front runners in the race globally to try to find a vaccine.

Researchers at Oxford University saying they believe that if their trials continue to go well, they could have a vaccine ready as early as September. Some experts though cautioning that is very optimistic, it would likely take at least a year.

All of this happening as the U.K. prepares to overtake Italy to have the most or highest number of deaths in Europe. More than 28,000 people have been killed here by the coronavirus.

Also coming up on Sunday, the government will basically present a plan to people where they start to outline what this country will look like as they start to lift the lockdown.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson, in Athens. The country here coming out of a seven-week lockdown. But it's going to be in stages. Today, the bookstores, the florists, the hair salons open. It's going to be a very gradual process. That's what the government says.

They have done something quite remarkable here and unexpected in Europe. They have an elderly population, one of the oldest populations in Europe. They have a very rickety health care system. And that's why the pragmatic prime minister decided to go for an early lockdown, locking down before there were any coronavirus deaths in the country.

So far, only 145 people dead. About 2600 infected with the virus. Quite startling numbers compared with the rest of Europe.

The prime minister's point, that is success in the first step. But coming out of it, this reopening, that's going to take a lot of careful judgment and testing.

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KING: Nic Robertson there in Athens.

A prestigious honor for a group of U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq. Six have been awarded Purple Hearts after being wounded in those Iranian missile strikes back in January. All 29 servicemembers have been approved to receive the award following those attacks.

And before we go, some sad news in the sports world. Today, the legendary football coach, Don Shula, passed away this morning. Shula hasn't coached in 20 years but he still holds the national Football League record for the most wins, 347. He led the Miami Dolphins to a pair of Super Bowl titles, including a perfect season in 1992. It remains the only perfect season in NFL history. Don Shula was 90 years old.

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Thanks for sharing your time with us today. Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

Brooke Baldwin picks up our coverage right now.