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145,000 U.S. Auto Workers Could Strike Friday; U.S. Releases $6B In Frozen Iranian Funds In Prisoner Swap; Apple Ditches "Lightening Charger" For iPhone. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 13:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We're now just two days, 10 hours and 28 minutes away from a potentially devastating strike that could impact all of us.

If there's no deal between the Big Three American automakers and thousands of union workers by midnight on Thursday, experts say the consequences could be far-reaching.

One consulting firm says a strike lasting 10 days could cost the American economy $5.6 billion. It could plunge the state of Michigan into a recession and potentially even drive up inflation.

Another report from J.D. Power says that a two-week strike could spike a 2 percent jump in new car prices across the board and cars aren't exactly cheap right now.

What does the UAW, the United Auto Workers union, want? Its 150,000 workers are asking for protections against job losses and plant closing as their production shifts to electric vehicles.

Also, limits on part-time workers and forced overtime. And a big issue, health care coverage into retirement as well as the restoration of pension plans.

And here's the big sticking point, pay. Workers want an immediate 20 percent raise with additional increases that would bump up pay by 36 percent over the life of a four-year contract.

Of course, negotiations are still ongoing. But Stellantis, the group that owns Chrysler and Jeep, says it's reached a tentative agreement on several issues. They're offering a 14.5 percent wage increase over four years, far below, as you saw, what workers want.

Ford and G.M. offered a 10 percent increase, which the union president called "insulting."

This push and pull is not new. In fact, the UAW argues that it's fighting to restore many of the benefits lost during the 2008 financial crisis, concessions they made to keep the Big Three in business. And business for the Big Three has been booming. They posted a profit

of $21 billion in the just the first half of this year.

To put that into perspective for you, the union, again, calling for a 36 percent raise over four years.

The CEO of G.M. last year was paid $29 million. That's roughly a 34 percent jump just from 2019.

Stellantis CEO, he took in about $25 million last year. He makes roughly 365 times as much as the average employee.

Now Ford's CEO, Jim Farley, he takes home roughly $21 million a year. Nearly $1 million of that is for, quote, "personal use of aircraft."


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: As talks continue ahead of Thursday night's deadline for a new four-year contract, I'm joined by Jacob Stieneckker. He's a UAW member. He works at the General Motors plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

And also with us is Orval Plumlee. He's a former UAW president there at Fort Wayne local union. He also worked with G.M. for more than 40 years.


Orval, to you first because you were president of the Fort Wayne local UAW chapter during the auto bailout back in 2008.

I think many of us remember that, when the union made some pretty big concessions to the Big Three automakers to help them secure bailout money.

How much of that is about getting some of that back now that automakers have recovered?

ORVAL PLUMLEE, FORMER UAW PRESIDENT, FORT WAYNE LOCAL 2209: Well, the rank-and-file and the retirees went into this quite soberly, trying to save the corporation and the auto industry itself.

After we gave up such benefits, pay, they slapped us in the face with more plant closures, more layoffs, moving a product -- a new product to Mexico, the Blazer, and the list goes on and on.

And it's time that we had some due respect.

KEILAR: And so what are you looking for, Orval? What are the biggest issues that would affect that -- the daily life, the lifestyle of an auto worker?

PLUMLEE: I'd personally like to see them do away with this multi- tiered wage system where, heavens, a young man can go to work for McDonald's for nearly as much as a temporary that they make -- they make suffer as a temporary for years before they become full-time employees.

And the COLA has been something that's been -- I think should be added to the retirees and back to the people on the floor, which has helped set the bar for wages across the country.


PLUMLEE: Not just the entire industry, the entire workplace.


KEILAR: And he said --


KEILAR: Jacob, he mentioned for a young worker. That's you. You work there at the G.M. plant --


KEILAR: -- in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that makes Silverado trucks, among other vehicles.


KEILAR: What would that cost-of-living adjustment mean for you, someone who is junior in their career?

STIENECKER: It would mean so much to me. It would be -- being able to buy one of these trucks that we build. We build around 470 trucks a shift. And there's no way I could afford one of these trucks.

Yes, it would make life a lot better, not being able to worry about do I have enough money in my checking account to pay my mortgage, to pay my car payment.

If I had a medical issue -- I don't have that much in savings. If I had a medical issue myself, right now, I'm not being -- being able to cover an unforeseen medical emergency, even though I have health care. And I'm glad I do.

But I can't see -- see the future in this cost-of-living COLA. It would help me having that correct -- the finances to be able to pay for something that I can't foresee in the future.

KEILAR: Carmaker profits are up. My co-host, Boris, just went through all of the numbers there. CEO salaries are up.

Jacob, do you think that automakers understand where auto workers are coming from in these negotiations?

STIENECKER: I do feel like they understand, but I feel like they -- they have their own interest ahead of the collective interest as auto workers and the Big Three together. I feel like the corporate greed is a little bit too much and we're

just asking for our fair share of we produce these vehicles that sell for -- they're making billions in profits every year.

I believe it's a quarter of a trillion in the last 10 years of North American profits. We're just asking for them to share some of that profits with us to make us whole.

KEILAR: Orval, we learned overnight the UAW is lowering the raise demand to around -- it's coming off that 40 percent, lowering demands to around 36 percent over four years.

Are you optimistic that that is acceptable enough, that you can help avert a strike by Friday? Do you think that a strike is going to happen?

PLUMLEE: Well, I'm not in the position of bargaining at the moment and that would be unfair for me to speak for those that are. But right now, I don't believe it's -- it will be adequate.

And the whole country should realize what's hanging in the balance of this. If the union is not successful in raising the bar, we very well may be put in an expiration date on middle class.


A lot of people don't realize how much responsibility lays upon the union on the future of your working-class America.

KEILAR: Jacob and Orval, we know that you're very busy this week. You have a lot on your minds and we thank you so much for taking the time out.

Jacob, I know you have to head off to your shift shortly there at the G.M. plant. So thank you for taking time out for us.

STIENECKER: Thank you.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Five Americans detained in Iran could be one step closer to coming home. Ahead, we're going to show you the moves being made by the Biden administration to make that a reality.




SCIUTTO: Five Americans deemed wrongfully detained in Iran are now one step closer to coming home.

The Biden administration has issued a waiver allowing international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar without sanctions. As part of the deal, the U.S. has also agreed to release five detained

Iranian citizens.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler is following the story from the State Department.

Jennifer, a combination of money and people. Is this a done deal?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Well, it's not quite yet a done deal, Jim. The National Security Council spokesperson said the process is ongoing and sensitive.

However, the issuance is a very promising sign that things are moving forward to bring these five Americans, all of whom have been declared wrongfully detained, to bring them home after some of them have spent years in Iranian custody.

We saw this process start to move forward about a month ago when four of the Americans, Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi and a fourth, whose identity we don't know yet, were moved into house arrest in Iran. And the fifth American was already under house arrest in Iran.

And in the weeks since, we've seen the steps start to be taken, including with the $6 billion in Iranian funding. This is going to be moved from those accounts in South Korea to Qatar.

And the reason the administration had to issue this waiver was to ensure that the banks in Europe, who are helping to process the movement of this payment, don't have to fear getting sanctioned.

Now the administration has come under some scrutiny from some Republicans lawmakers who are condemning them for making an agreement with the Iranian regime, which, of course, has committed numerous human rights atrocities against its own people and the detainee Americans.

The State Department spokesperson, Matt Miller, hit back on the criticisms just a few minutes ago.

Take a listen.


MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I do recognize that there are tough choices involved here. And the secretary has been forthright about this and has been upfront. The president has been upfront. There are always tough choices involved in bringing home American citizens.

But we -- the president and the secretary have decided that their first priority is to bring these American citizens home and that's why agreed to this arrangement to do that.


HANSLER: So, Jim, we will be watching and waiting and hoping that this is one of the final steps before these Americans get to come home from Iran -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: And there have been prisoner exchanges under both Democratic and Republican administrations here in the United States.

Jennifer Hansler, at the State Department, thanks so much.


SANCHEZ: Now to some of the other headlines we're following this hour.

Israel's Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a historic case concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the country's judicial system.

It's the first time ever that all 15 Israeli Supreme Court judges have sat for a case at the same time. They're going to decide whether to uphold or strike down a law passed by Netanyahu and his supporters that would limit judicial oversight of parliaments.

Israelis have been protesting for months over the issue as critics say that it erodes the court's independence and harms Israel's democracy.

In Spain, Luis Rubiales has been summoned to testify before a Spanish court Friday for that unwanted kiss on star player, Jennifer Hermoso, during the women's World Cup celebration.

The former head of the Spanish Soccer Federation resigned over the weekend. He's now being investigated for alleged sexual assault and coercion. Rubiales apologized for the kiss. He described it as mutual.

In China, authorities have quite the emergency on their hands. More than 70 crocodiles are on the loose after intense flooding in the southern part of that country.

According to Chinese state media, the crocodiles escaped from a commercial farm when the flooding caused a lake to overflow. Officials are now warning residents to stay indoors as they launch an operation to try and recapture the reptiles.


SCIUTTO: That is scary.

Well, moments ago, Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 and the biggest change to the iPhone's design in more than a decade. What exactly is that change? We'll have the details coming up.



KEILAR: Apple is hosting its annual product announcement event in Cupertino, California, right now. The iPhone maker has unveiled a major change here now to its landmark device, ditching its lightning charger for a more universal USBC charger.

CNN's Clare Duffy is following the story.

What more did we learn from this announcement and what are we going to do with all our lightning cables?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Brianna, the company literally just announced it will, indeed, be switching out the lightning charging cable for the USBC charging cable, which, of course, is much more ubiquitous.

This comes after an E.U. rule requiring all mobile devices in Europe to have that USBC charging cable starting in 2024. But Apple seems to have made the move early.

Now consumers will be able to connect to their Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Airpods all with that USBC charging cable.

Which will be a huge convenience for consumers. They're not going to have all these different kinds of cords laying around.

But there will be some figuring out of what to do with all those lightning cables.


We also learned of a number of new updates to the iPhone, an expansion of this dynamic island notifications hub, which replaces the notch at the top of the iPhone on older models. That will be expanding to all iPhone 15 models.

There will be a number of new colors of the iPhone 15 -- pink, yellow, green, blue and black.

The company also talked about its Apple Watch Series Nine and a number of updates coming to the Apple Watch.

One of those things is a new tapping motion that people can do to answer calls or to play and pause music when they don't have both hands free to interact with the Apple Watch.

The event is still going, so we'll be watching for more updates from the company -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Very interesting. Thinking for ideas for reusing my lightning cables. There's so many, so many.

Clare Duffy, thank you so much for that.


SCIUTTO: You know, they could have gone with the same charging cable like years ago. Didn't do it. So we have a lot of cords.

Anyway, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells his committees to open an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, but not all Republicans are on board with this. There's also the Senate that's a problem. We're following the latest on the Hill. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)