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CNN Tonight

United Auto Workers Strikes Against Big Three Auto Makers. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 00:00   ET


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Gabe, the UAA -- W members, excuse me, are now officially on strike. You can hear the horns right now. You are there in Wayne, Michigan with the UAW president, Shawn Fain, and other members are already on the picket line. What is the mood like where you are right now? This is very significant.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, it is. It's history. It's the first time we have seen this simultaneous strike against the Big Three automakers in the United States.

We're outside a Ford plant right now, and you can probably hear that energy. It has been a bit chaotic here the last few minutes. Hundreds of people flowing in to be on this initial strike line.

You can see it behind me. This is history playing out.

Now, I want to bring in -- it was Ashley, is that right?


COHEN: Amanda, excuse me. Amanda Sinclair. Amanda -- Amanda, you work on the box line, you said.

SINCLAIR: Yes. Mid-chassis. Yes.

COHEN: OK. So you are now on strike along with about three thousand other people who work here at the factory. Tell me how you're feeling tonight?

SINCLAIR: I feel it's worth it, being out here on strike because we need more money. The cost of living went up, so that's why I'm out here. I just got off work, and I came out here to strike.

COHEN: You were working until just a few minutes ago?


COHEN: OK. And what do you, in this negotiation, is most important? What are you looking for?

SINCLAIR: Cost of living, more money, everything that we're asking for.

COHEN: As of tomorrow, it seems you're going to be on strike pay. Is that your understanding, making about $100 a day?

SINCLAIR: Yes. That's not enough at all.

COHEN: Yes, how are you going to get by? And how long are you ready to be on that picket line fighting, making only $100 a day?

SINCLAIR: I don't know how I'm going to survive, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to be out here striking.

COHEN: Well, thank you so much for your time, Amanda. Appreciate it.

And again, if you look behind me, Laura, this is what history looks like. Hundreds of people. We know there are 3,000 members who are going to be striking at this location, just one of three.

There's also a G.M. plant in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio. Between the three, about 13,000 members.

The question is, Laura, how much of a disruption is that going to cause to the auto manufacturing industry here in the United States? Because obviously, when cars can't be finished, if certain parts can't be made, it could shut the whole process down across the country.

There's concern about that and about the economic impacts. But that's not what tonight is about, as you can hear -- you can hear the energy, people who are excited. And it seems like they are ready for this to potentially last a while. How long is a mystery. It just started about, as you know, two minutes ago.

COATES: And we're just thinking about the significance, the woman you just spoke to, coming off of work, prepared now to strike, waiting she says, perhaps as long as it would take to get what is owed to them in their beliefs (ph). Using the phrase that she says it's worth it to do so.

Thirteen thousand members. I mean, there are these three locations now across the country. Are the major automakers, Gabe, saying anything tonight about now, where we are on strike?

COHEN: Well, look, we've heard from the president of Ford today. We know there has been frustration from these automakers, who feel like the union has waited, has not negotiated in good faith. That they have offered large pay increases, up to 20 percent.

We know the union is seeking 40 percent. But it seems like there is still a wide gap between them, listening to these car companies talk tonight and basically say they have come to the table. But as of now, there seems to have been little progress, Laura.

COATES: They're talking a lot about these tiers, people who are being -- working in the same position, getting paid different amounts, hoping to end that, of course.

Just looking at the energy behind you, Gabe. Since you've arrived, it has increased almost exponentially in the size of the crowd behind you. Drivers going by, honking likely in support of what is happening right now.

And by the way, we did invite the three executives from all three of the auto companies. They have declined to join us tonight.

Gabe, we're going to keep checking back with you. Stay there and keep us informed about what's happening on the ground.

Joining me now is Congresswoman, Haley Stevens, a Michigan Democrat, who supports the strikers. Congresswoman Stevens, they are officially on strike. It happened moments ago. It is historic, and you are standing in solidarity with the UAW members. How significant is this strike?

REP. HALEY STEVENS (D-MI): Well, you've got that right. I'm absolutely standing alongside the hardworking men and women of the UAW. And I want to thank Gabe for being out with the workers striking. I think Amanda's story is incredibly significant, a woman who just got off her shift and who's now joined the picket line, saying, I want a better deal.

And the American people have to understand, it's not easy to strike. It is nerve-wracking. A lot is put on the line. But the outcome of this has got to be a better deal for the workers, and that's what we're seeing play out.


That's why we're in this position, and I'm going to be standing by the UAW through and through.

COATES: I mean, just the anxiety, and you -- and I'm so glad that you mentioned the real human element of this, as we're talking a lot about manufacturing and what it's going to be in terms of the economy and areas around what -- how it will impact the Big Three.

For every person who is on this line, every person contemplating whether to strike, has to consider exactly what you're talking about, what it will mean to them immediately, over the next days, weeks, perhaps even months ahead, and what it was like for the next four years. Thank you for bringing that to our attention and reminding us, congresswoman.

Also, though, among the UAW's demands is a 40 percent pay increase over a four-year period. It also includes the restoration of cost-of- living pay raises, a 32-hour work week with 40 hours of pay. Are these fair asks?

STEVENS: Well, I'm certainly not in the negotiating board room, but I think it's very fair for the workers to ask for their fair share.

And I want to be crystal-clear about what's taking place right now. Three plants, between the Big Three in three different states, are on strike. There's oftentimes no question from large automakers when they decide to permanently close plants. We've seen that happen in droves over the next 10, 15 years, dozens of plants shutting down. This has continued to happen in the industrial Midwest, while record profits are -- are received by the large companies.

And I'm proud of Michigan manufacturers. I'm so caught up in the moment we're in. We were the ones who rose to the industrial call to action during the pandemic. We've continued to grow in industry, out of a managed bankruptcy, that I worked on in President Obama's administration. I saw the UAW make concessions alongside many stakeholders.

And now, it's time to get their share. A strike is painful, but the outcome in the long-term benefits of this, not just for the workers but for our economy as a whole, are on the horizon.

COATES: Really important, also, that the Ford CEO, Jim Farley, spoke earlier and talked about a 40 percent pay raise, saying that a 40 percent pay raise would actually bankrupt his company.

Of course, a common retort to that is what about the pay raises for people like yourself in your position would actually get. What's your action to his comments that this could potentially bankrupt this -- these industries?

STEVENS: Well, Ford has made billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars in just the first six months at this year. So I somewhat question the -- the bankruptcy consideration, but certainly, we want to have a Ford Motor Company. We will continue to have a Ford Motor Company.

And I encourage everyone to continue to negotiate in good faith. We're seeing some signs of progress, when we hear that the companies are willing to meet on increased wages.

But the tier -- the tier system that the UAW is asking for, certainly COLA, bringing COLA back, which was -- got negotiated as off the table 14 years ago, we'd like to see that come back.

And again, I'm not negotiating this deal, but I am standing by the UAW. And I think people should listen to Mr. Fain right now and what he's pushing for, see him with the UAW workers who are shaking his hand, who are appreciating someone who's of the UAW, working alongside his brothers and sisters and not just shaking hands with politicians or other VIPs. He's doing this, just like what you're seeing at the Wayne assembly plant in Michigan here tonight.

COATES: I believe he's actually going to be joining that particular picket line momentarily, if not already, while they're officially on strike.

You know, President Biden has spoken about himself as being the most pro-union president in the history of this country. He apparently has spoken with both the UAW president, Shawn Fain, and the leader of -- leaders of the major automakers earlier today.

Many people are wondering, when they think about the role of, obviously, a president in a negotiation of such significance, but how much realistically can he do to address this situation, Congresswoman? STEVENS: Well, certainly, President Biden has shown his pro-labor

chops with the Inflation Reduction Act passage and requiring fair labor standards all throughout the bills that he has signed into law.

Also, the infrastructure law that he signed -- that he signed in 2021.

And I saw the lines of union members who were at the White House for that signing, people coming from their -- from their locals.


And so look, I think the president is going to continue to be a responsible negotiator here in in terms of not necessarily being in the boardroom for the negotiation but listening to the stakeholders and encouraging what is the best outcome.

But as a lawmaker, I will tell you, I knew when we passed these laws, that workers were going to need to get dealt in, and that is why I have been following these negotiations so closely and spending the time with the individuals, my very constituents who are of the UAW, asking them how they are feeling, what is going on in their daily lives.

And I cannot tell you how exhausted workers are, how many people are doing the job of two people. We've got dual-income-earning households. Yes, the 40 hours a week. You can't look at your cell phone. This is tough work. It puts the world on wheels.

We've got so much to be proud of here in Michigan, and the outcome of this is going to be a standard, not just for the United States of America, but for the world. The world is watching.

COATES: We certainly are. Representative Stevens, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

I want to bring in now Todd Dunn, everyone, president of the UAW local 862 in Louisville, Kentucky. Todd, thank you for joining us this evening. You've been at the union hall all night. How are you guys feeling, knowing that now, the strike is here?

TODD DUNN, PRESIDENT OF UAW LOCAL 862, LOUISVILLE, KY: You know, we really live and breathe over the last two years, trying to represent our membership, get them prepared, while simultaneously trying to be super transparent with the membership. We get all of the resolutions and take care of them, get them where it needs to be.

And we're not -- we're not exhausted by any means. We're ready to go as far as it takes, to get an agreement. We're mindful of the process. We're mindful of the families that it's affecting. We know there's a lot of uncertainties out there.

But right now, we are focusing, even with not being selected as a current target. We're focusing on trying to put together the best plan forward so we can continue to keep the perimeter on our members in our local. And I feel that we're there. We're just going to have to continue to push forward. COATES: And Todd, just so people can understand, because you heard

from the UAW president, talking about the individual locations that are going to be striking. You are not at one of those facilities, but I do wonder, just to fully understand it, what does that mean for those -- those areas that have not been targeted specifically to strike? Are you working at all? Is it about preparing to support? What does it look like for you and your team?

DUNN: So in Louisville, at the Louisville assembly plant, we employ about 3,000 UAW members currently there. They actually shut down operations for the evening. Now, they'll be returning tomorrow. They were trying to put together a preparation plan.

Over at the Kentucky truck plant, it's a little bit different scenario. We've got almost 9,000 UAW members working. Of course, the Kentucky truck plant represents almost 54,000 -- I'm sorry, 54 percent of all the North American profits, right, for Ford Motor Company. So that engine, Ford Motor Company, wants to keep turning as much as possible.

So while we're trying to prepare our membership, we also want to still be a part of that contingency plan, if need be, that we can interact and engage and be ready to go on strike, if necessary.

COATES: Really important to think about, and just the sheer scope of the number of workers at the different areas, the role that each individual is playing and contemplating.

I mean, just trying to get everyone even on the same page about striking must have been something quite extraordinary.

And Todd, there's an economic report out, and it says that a ten-day strike could cost the U.S. $5.6 billion, and about $2 billion of that will be borne by consumers who wouldn't be able to get car repairs.

What do you want people to know who are the non-workers, the non-UAW employees, that are concerned about this?

DUNN: So, you know, one at the things key is to try and go back and fact check some of the things that's happened in America, right? So in 2019, since 2019, new cars have gone up 34 percent. Our wages have gone up 6 percent. That data is there and can't be misconstrued.

In the same time, the CEO pay has gone up 40 percent. So, you know, I use an example, myself, about ten months ago, I ordered a new Bronco. And in that time, the price went up 13,000, almost $600. I finally said that I couldn't afford to buy that vehicle, just because of the cost that was going to be there.


And that was prior to us getting any type of negotiations with the Ford Motor Company. The business models (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we had to share those profits.

And you have to think back to when we get went through all the trouble and the bail-outs, Ford Motor Company did their thing. We did our thing. The American auto workers gave much. We gave back instead. We'll help you out, and when we help Ford Motor Company out and we helped the auto companies, they said we'll help you when we get back on our feet. They haven't done that.

So that really sits back in our minds, right? And also, looking at the cost of living. So, you know, a lot of folks talk about this 40 percent. Well, if you look at an entry-level employee, right, that comes in at that level of pay, they have to go eight years to get full pay.

One of my great friends, Joe Williams, he says, I just got full pay, eight years. If you look at a 30-year career, that's almost a third of your career, trying to get to full wages, and it's just not equitable. It's not there. It's not a -- We need to get back to career jobs in America, instead of having job shopping and having more people jobs (ph).

So that really sticks out. And really, what makes us passionate about what we believe in and our members can see. What we do, as union leaders, is not an opportunity. It's a way of life. And we have to engage and continue to try to lift up our membership.

And we always have to remember, as we're lifting our membership up, everyone else will benefit from it, as well.

So there is things that we have -- there are things that we have to worry about. There are challenges while we go on a strike. Ford Motor Company has had this plan -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I wish Ford Motor Company would put a little more effort on coming to the table, coming to the table with some realistic objectives.

And we're ready. Our national negotiators are key. Our leadership, President Fain. You've got Chuck Browning. Chuck Browning is just an absolutely wonderful leader. We have the most dialed-in, disciplined, attention-to-detail negotiators in the whole process that I've seen in my 28 years.

And we're taking everything into account, and that's to include our consumers. And we want our consumers and the public to know what we're struggling for, and we want to be there for them.


DUNN: And on top of that, that's why we're doing so much volunteer and philanthropic volunteering during our strike. We're going to have almost 8,000 hours a week going towards philanthropic efforts. So we --


COATES: Todd, we are watching what is happening right now. I didn't want to cut you off. I'm sorry. But we're watching right now what's unfolding even in Wayne, Michigan. I'm so glad that you stopped by. Thank you for joining the program, because we needed to hear the information that you gave us. And I appreciate you taking the time to break that down for us.

Todd Dunn, thank you.

Everyone, we've got a lot more to come on our breaking news. We've got thousands of auto workers walking off the job tonight on strike against the Big Three automakers. Does this leave President Biden stuck between a kind of rock and a hard place? We'll figure it out next.



COATES: Let's check back in now with CNN correspondent Gabe Cohen. Gabe, you are on the picket lines on this historic night with the protesters. What's going on?

COHEN: Well, Laura, the crowd is growing. It has been growing over the past hour or so. Hundreds of people now outside of this Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan.

I want to bring one of them in right now. This is Joel. Joel, you're a car inspector for Ford?


COHEN: Is that right here, in the plant?

JOEL: Yes sir.

COHEN: You're now on strike.

JOEL: Yes, sir.

COHEN: How long are you going to be here tonight?

JOEL: I'm going to be here as long as I have to be, until -- you know, I mean, as long as -- I'm going to be sticking with my brothers and sisters all night long.

COHEN: I understand they're going to have people here through the night, striking each of the gates. Do you have a sense of what the scene's going to be like in the coming hours?

JOEL: I mean, it's going to be -- Like I said, we're going to be here as long as we can, you know, until we get what we deserve. It's time. You know, these CEOs make a lot of money, and they don't want to spread the wealth, you know. They've made billions of dollars. We gave up a lot of stuff over the years, and it's time to give back, you know what I mean?

COHEN: What we heard from the CEO of Ford today was that, if they gave in, the car manufactures feel like if they gave into every one of the union's demands, it would bankrupt their companies. What do you make of that? JOEL: I don't believe that one bit. Ford's been around for over 100

years, 120 years. I mean, I don't believe that one bit. You know, they own all kinds of properties. You know, let's be real here.

I mean, they know how to make money. They've been doing it for years. They're making billions of dollars for years, and we're the ones that make them that money. And it's time to get what's right, what's fair, what's fair to us.

COHEN: Well, Joel -- Absolutely. Thank you so much --

JOEL: Thank you.

COHEN: -- for spending a few minutes with us.

And now, we're going to bring in Congresswoman Tlaib, who's with us. You've been here for, I noticed, the past at least a few minutes. What do you make off the scene that's been building behind you?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): I mean, I'm so incredibly proud of the courage. I mean, you heard them. They've sacrificed so much.

In 2009, I remember, the American people didn't bail out the Big Three so they could screw over their own workers. They shouldn't have to beg for a pension for them to have the cost of living adjustment that has been part of a UAW contract since 1948.

And we're in 2023. They took it out, because they wanted to make sure that they could stay afloat, they could survive. And now that they're making record profit, they're turning their backs on their own workers.

COHEN: And I know you talked a little bit earlier on our air about your own family experience, your father's experience as a union worker. What these workers are in for in the coming days, potentially weeks or months, making only strike pay, $100 a day. How long do you think this can last? And how much of a strain will this be on your constituents and your economy here in Michigan?

TLAIB: I mean, look, the economy is not working for them now. They're really struggling every single day. Some of them have to work seven days in this plant. That's not a life.

And you know what? Like, the Big Three sat for five weeks on the UAW proposal. Five weeks. And they started hustling this past week. Well, they moved too slowly, and that's why they did, you know, some violations to the labor board. They were tired of it and fed up. They weren't taking them seriously.

I mean, look, they're making record profits. But at the same time, they just did shareholder buyouts. They drew all this stuff and said, hey, we can't do this. We'll go broke.

Well, you just increased the cost of cars by 30 percent, and your own workers, the workers that actually build the cars, can't even afford your own cars. Because you're price gouging, because all you care about is profits. And, you know, you're getting really, really greedy.


I mean, in '09, that wasn't the goal in 2023, that we're looking back and saying, Oh, my God, the majority of UAW workers don't even have a pension.

COHEN: What do you say to other constituents in Michigan who would look at this situation and say this is going to cost the state's economy tens of -- maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially, and it's going to really hurt people across the state. This strike needs to end. What do you make of that?

TLAIB: I'll tell you, in Michigan, everyone knows somebody that works in one of these plants, has been a UAW worker and a retiree that's been struggling. Every single person you met in Michigan. I don't care if you go to the Upper Peninsula, the Southeastern Michigan, towards Flint, anywhere.

And I'll tell you this much. They know this economy ain't working for the working people. They know they're struggling every single day. And guess what? Most of us are subsidizing for the fact that they're not paying their workers enough.

So focus on the CEOs. Focus on the corporate greed of Ford, Jim Farley, the CEOs that, again, are literally dragging their feet, pretending that they don't have the resources to, again, give back to the same workers that sacrificed in '09.

They're struggling. Do something about it. But everyone should be blaming them. They're the ones who are dragging their feet. They're the ones pretending that they have all these, like, excuses that continue to come up.

And it's really important for the American people --


TLAIB: -- to know this. We keep doing so much for them, but when it comes to us, they turned our back -- turn their backs on us.

COHEN: Well, thank you so much for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.

Laura, I'm going send it back to you.

COATES: Gabe Cohen, fascinating to see what's happening right now, to see all the people behind you, to hear from members of Congress.

We've got lots more to cover tonight on our breaking news. The auto workers are on strike now against the Big Three, and they're taking to the streets tonight.


[00:30:32] COATES: It's official. They are officially on strike. We've got Gabe Cohen in Wayne, Michigan, right now. You're hearing from Shawn Fain, the UAW president. Let's listen in.

SHAWN FAIN, UAW PRESIDENT: -- and they want to call us greedy. They've got the whole thing backwards.

COHEN: What would you say to the CEOs of these auto companies that say the union has not been acting in good faith, that there were delays? What do you make of that?

FAIN: Let's talk about what good faith is. They've had our economic demands for six weeks. We've told them from day one, we expect a bargain now, not wait till the end. They waited until last week.

We had to file unfair labor practice charges on two companies to get them to come to the table. So they waited until the last week to want to get down to business. Shame on them, and what they're saying is complete bs.

COHEN: You heard the CEO of Ford said it would bankrupt them if they met your demands. What did you think that?

FAIN: I think it's a joke. You know what? They could double our pay right now. The cost of labor that goes into a vehicle is 5 percent of the vehicle. They could double our wages, and they could not raise the prices of vehicles, and they would still make billions of dollars. It's a lie like everything else that comes out of their mouths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The strategy -- the strategy is three facilities. What impact do you think that could make on the auto industry as a whole across this country?

FAIN: We'll find out. You know what? It's going to keep on building, if they don't come to the table for our members.

COHEN: More facilities are going to -- are more facilities going to feel this? Are more facilities going on strike?

FAIN: If they don't -- if they don't take care of our members, they will.

Thank you.

Thank you.

COHEN: OK. We got it, we got it. We got it.

COATES: Gabe, we're hearing a lot right now. Breaking news, we just heard from Shawn Fain, who was talking to our Gabe Cohen in Wayne. That is the president of the UAW. They are on strike tonight.

You heard from him, talking about he called it B.S., essentially, and a joke that the notion that they could bankrupt these industries by simply submitting to their demands. They could double their pay in some respects. The unfair labor practices that were described in terms of having to

file, that Rashida Tlaib also mentioned with our Gabe Cohen.

There's so much more that's happening. Gabe, you just had a chance to talk to Shawn Fain. He is the person that to speak to. He is demanding that they come to the table for the members. And I think he said to you that if they do not do so, there could be more areas that strike.

COHEN: Yes, and that's what we've been wondering. Look, we're talking about 145,000 UAW members across the country. Right now, as of midnight, about 13,000 are on strike, less than 10 percent.

Three facilities -- one, this Ford plant here in Michigan, a G.M. plant in Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The question has been this tactical strike, Laura, what will the impact be? How much of a hit will the auto industry take if, perhaps, they can't get certain parts, or they can't finish cars, if they can't get them off the line?

It's a question of what will be the ripple effect through not just the auto industry but the greater economy?

And yes, as we just heard from Shawn Fain, he's saying, Look, we're starting with three facilities, but it could grow from there. And that's got to be a scary thing to hear if you're the CEO of one of these three big automakers, who have said they can't afford to meet the demands that UAW has put forward, that the union has put forward, that 40 percent pay increase in the next few years, as well as retirement benefits, cost-of-living adjustments.

They said they can't meet all of those demands. It will bankrupt them. But also, it's difficult imagine -- to imagine they could afford to allow a strike like this to linger.

Again, the big question in the days ahead, three facilities, three different states, what will be the impact -- Laura.

COATES: Well, on his words, we'll have to find out, won't we, on this very notion here.

And again, we have reached out to the executives of these three major auto dealers and automakers, and they have not taken the opportunity to come and join us here this evening.

But I am joined now by Alysa Diebolt, chair of the Macomb County Democratic Committee.

Alysa, we are in the midst of history. President Biden has called himself, as you know, the most pro-union president in the history of this nation. He also has a green energy agenda, and I'm wondering when you're talking about what we're seeing, what we're looking at right now, does this strike now place President Biden between, really, two of his top policy goals?

ALYSA DIEBOLT, CHAIR, MACOMB COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE: You know, green energy is vital. Our world is on fire, and that needs to be a priority, but it needs to be done in a way which the administration has said -- it needs to be done in a way that the workers are engaged, and those jobs don't go elsewhere, that the parts are made here.


I'd love it if the parts are made in Michigan. Our governor has been fighting for that, you know, forever.

So I think, you know, if we can accomplish the climate goals and -- and really make some strides there without hurting our workforce that is the time and talent that goes into making all of these vehicles, it is a win-win for the planet and the economy.

COATES: I mean, what we're seeing right now, we're watching the UAW president walking through this cloud. He clearly has supporters that are there who are fully supportive of what he is speaking up on behalf of.

Obviously, President Biden needs these automakers to sustain policies he's talking about. But President Biden has also encouraged all parties to stay at the table. What could this strike really cost the president politically? We're about 400 and, I think, 17 days away from a general election.

DIEBOLT: I'm counting down, too, for sure. You know, I think that it's -- you know, this is a huge part of what's going to -- what's going to be on the ballot next year.

But there's been so much in President Biden's administration. I mean, I'm a millennial, and it's wild to me to think that President Biden is the -- going to be the most progressive president of my lifetime. But here we are. I mean, that is a reality.

And I think that the infrastructure plan -- I mean, you're driving down freeways around the country and seeing signs that this project was funded by this administration. That is monumental.

So not only doing the work but taking the credit, which I think, you know, we've struggled with a little bit in the past. So I think if, you know, everyone needs to stay at the table, absolutely, but the workers absolutely deserve to get fair pay and pay increases to face a 2023/2024 cost of living.

I mean, that's not what they're getting paid now. And it's clear that, you know, the rise in inflation, you know, they need those cost-of- living increases.

COATES: Alysa Diebolt, thank you so much for joining us.

We want to remind people, the current top base pay for UAW is 67,226. They're asking for 80,000 plus on this.

And we're looking for a 40 percent, they said, a raise across four years. As you mentioned, the cost-of-living increases restored, traditional pension plans as part of it, retiree health coverage and care coverage, limits on part-time workers and forced overtime, as well.

A lot to get to there. Thank you for joining us tonight.

I want to bring in CNN political commentator Ashley Allison. Also, Charlie Dent is here with us, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Glad to have you both here.

Let me begin with you, Ashley. Because look, there are two real constituencies at play here, and we can't overstate the significance of a historic strike like this, in a summer, by the way of strikes or potential strikes.

If you are President Biden looking at this politically through that lens, you've called yourself the most pro-union president in the history of America. You promoted green policy energy. You know that you need the autoworkers and you need the auto companies. What do you do now?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he continue -- He should continue to encourage both parties to stay at the negotiating table.

But if I'm President Biden, I'm looking at who's on that picket line and I'm looking at the diversity. These are young workers and older workers, people from all different races, people of different genders. And they're all standing up for what they believe is right, and that's a fair living wage.

So, President Biden has to support the workers at this moment.

Michigan is a battleground state, but so are so many other states that have strong union backgrounds, just like my home state of Ohio.

And so, these workers are not asking for drastic changes. They're asking for things that the average American respects and supports. And so if President Biden stands with the workers, as he has so many other times, I think it will fare well for him politically in the long run, because nobody wants to the rich just to keep getting richer and the poor to keep on suffering.

COATES: No. It's an important point. You think about the minimum wage debate more broadly, as well, happening.

Charlie, I want to read for you. The president, frankly, is in a precarious position. And based on what Ashley is talking about in particular, looking at who's on that picket line, is there a way, though, to reconcile what seems to be a conflicting agenda in some respects, when there's going to have to be the political pivot in this realm?

But what do you see as how he can resolve this conflict, the agenda, in particular?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We'll, if I'm Joe Biden, I want to see this -- this strike, end it rather quickly. Because let's face it, this economy, while it's been pretty resilient so far, you know, it's still pretty fragile. And he's going to -- the impacts, the ripple effects of this strike could be pretty significant, not only to the industry but to the broader economy, as Gabe just stated. So this is a real problem.


Also, much of the focus -- you've got to remember, too, the UAW is also quite unhappy with many provisions of the IRA right now, the Inflation Reduction Act and the green subsidies.

So this industry, these traditional Big Three, are competing not just with each other, but they're competing with all the transplants, you know, the German, the other European car companies, the Asian companies, Japanese, Korean, many of which are not going to be on strike.

So I think that this -- this issue is difficult for Joe Biden, because he's selling himself as pro-union. He's also selling Bidenomics, but this strike could have -- could have the effect of slowing down this economy at a time when many people are concerned.

Wages have not been keeping up with price increases. Yes, inflation has moderated a bit, but it went up so much that people are struggling. Their real incomes have not been able to keep pace with the price increases. So if I'm Biden, I want this thing to end quickly.

COATES: You know, you look at that, at the feeling and perception -- I often say, perception is king, and feeling is queen. And how people think about how you feel about the economy. The data points and what it means to you.

I mean, Ashley, that UAA -- excuse me, UAW has declined to endorse Biden so far. But the UAW president, Shawn Fain, we just spoke to moments ago on this very airwaves, believes it would actually be a disaster if Trump were president again.

And so there is this idea of what now on the politics side? But at the same time, you've got politicians who are going to try to pick a side. They're going to try to use this information, this trike to their advantage. What should happen?

ALLISON: Well, Fain is right, it would be a disaster if Trump is president for many reasons. But mainly, one reason is because he is an anti-union person. He does not believe -- the Republican Party traditionally is not a union-backing party.

I think the other thing is, you have to pick a side, but you know, they talk about the 40 percent increase that the CEOs have made, and that they're just asking for their fair share. And then the Big Three say, well, you know, we'll go bankrupt.

Well, we would say the math ain't math-ing here. Right? Because it seems like you continue to make more money, but the workers are not getting the fair -- their fair share. Now, the challenge that Joe Biden will have on this -- this campaign

is to help connect the dots that this is not his fault. This is the CEOs fault, and I'm with you, the workers. Whether you're an auto worker, whether you're a caregiver, whether you're a grocery store worker, if you're in a union, I'm with you.

And inflation is high. I'm working to keep it down, but I'm also working with and standing with you to make sure your wages go up. And that's a winning argument.

COATES: Charlie, I'll give you the last word.

DENT: Look, I was around when this industry had to be bailed out, G.M. and then Chrysler, not Ford. And I come from the steel country. You know, our industry was never bailed out.

And you know, this is -- and I think -- you know, I think the UAW has to be concerned about the broader public perception, that if this industry gets in trouble again -- and I don't know what's going to happen with Ford, and they're talking bankruptcy. But they had to come back to the taxpayers to make this right.

So I think, really, it's in everybody's interest to resolve this situation as quickly as possible for the benefit of the broader American economy.

I understand they want -- the workers want more money. Everybody wants more money. But, you know, we are dealing with a difficult economy, despite what many are saying about how rosy it is. There are storm clouds on the horizon, and this strike could make things worse. So it needs to be resolved fast.

COATES: Well, were 43 minutes in, but history is happening right now. Ashley Allison, Charlie Dent, thank you both so much.

Got to go to a quick break. We're going to come back there with more of our breaking news coverage. The strike is here. United Auto Workers on strike against the Big Three automakers, G.M., Ford and Stellantis, all at once.



COATES: Our breaking news tonight: auto workers are on strike against the Big Three tonight.

Here to discuss, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, also he's the editor -- senior editor for "The Atlantic." Also with us tonight is CNN political analyst, Scott Jennings, who was also a special assistant to president George W. Bush.

Gentlemen, this is quite a time we live in. It was noted as the summer of strikes for a while and also the aversion of some strikes, and now we have such a moment of significance. Let me begin with you here, Ron, because you have got now -- we're

seeing history being made, the three auto worker makers, the strike of the UAW, a president who calls himself the most labor -- the pro-labor and pro-union president of all times. What is your impression tonight?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, there's the issues about the short-term impact on the economy, but this really, I think, is bringing to a boil the fundamental long-term tension in Joe Biden's clean energy agenda.

You know, the trio of bills that he passed in his first two years has, in fact -- is, in fact, generating an enormous investment boom. Over $140 billion in investment from private companies in clean energy vehicles alone, just since he took office.

But, Laura, most of that money is going into red states, whose political representatives oppose the programs that are -- that are generating the investment, and which are also right-to-work states where it is hard for unions to organize. That is the backdrop for this strike.

The UAW's fear is that the auto industry is using one transition, a technological transition, from the internal combustion engine to the E.V., to mask a second transition, which is moving more of their production out of unionized facilities into either non-union joint venture projects in the North, or into the South.

And they are worried that they -- the administration is inadvertently financing this transition, because there is an enormous amount of money going to the companies to finance the construction of these new E.V. plants.

So I think getting this right is going to be critical not only for Biden but for, really, any future Democratic president, if they are going to sustain support for this long-term transition they want in our energy economy.

COATES: One could say also Republicans have to get this right. You notice, the political cynics out there can say there might be a moment to seize and capitalize on here, based on what you're talking about. Scott, how do you see it?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. No. 1, I agree with Ron. This -- this tension between the transition to electric vehicles versus traditional automobiles, I think, is culturally significant, economically significant. And I agree with him on the backdrop.

I also think that there's something to be said just about the current economic conditions in the country. I mean, we're living through massive inflation during Joe Biden. These workers know that. They're asking for big raises, over 40 percent, and they want to be paid five days a week for working four.

[00:50:13] I think a lot of it has to do with, frankly, the inflationary pressures that are on top of the shoulders of average, everyday working people, which these UAW people are.

So if you're looking for the political implications of it, obviously, the Republicans are pounding Joe Biden over inflation. And the inflation polling on this shows it's the single biggest drag on his economic approval, is the view that he just has caused, or at least not done enough to control inflation.

So we'll see how long this strike goes on, but I largely agree with Ron. This is a fraught moment for Joe Biden. He's already pretty soft in terms of his own job approval. I think his campaign right now is suffering some internal strife from his own party.

And you throw this on top of it, which could cause a further softening in the economy. It's a -- it's a troubling moment for -- for him and his political future.

COATES: And the area --

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Laura --

COATES: Go ahead, Ron, quick. Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: I would say, you know, their tone has notice -- notably shifted in the administration.

You know, this spring, the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, who was formerly the Michigan governor, went out to Silicon Valley and said the administration was, quote, "agnostic" about where the companies were investing and creating these new jobs and these new clean energy plants.

Well, a few weeks ago, the Energy Department put down $15 billion between the infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, to encourage the companies not to open new plants that might be joint ventures and non-unionized or in right-to-work states, but to retool their existing unionized plants to build the -- you know, the key components of the E.V.s, particularly the batteries.

So Shawn Fain's message to Biden, I think, has gotten through, that the administration needs to be aware of kind of the larger implications of what this E.V. transition might -- might mean.

But you have Trump out there also who is relentlessly attacking all element of what Biden is trying to promote, you know, the transition from the internal combustion engine to E.V., and specifically saying it will destroy the auto industry in Michigan. Which is the single employer of autoworkers in the country.

COATES: Ron Brownstein and Scott Jennings, something tells me the administration might have a lot to say tomorrow, and certainly, those who are vying for the RNC nomination, as well.

Gentlemen, thank you so much. Our breaking news tonight: the United Auto Workers are on strike

against the Big Three automakers. Welcome to history.



COATES: Let's check back in with correspondent Gabe Cohen. Gabe, you've got some breaking news?

COHEN: Yes, Laura, that's right. I just grabbed Shawn Fain, the head of the auto workers union, in this crowd, which you can see has grown quite a bit.

And he confirmed to me that there will be no bargaining between the union and the automakers today. All day Friday, they're not likely going to come back to the table until Saturday.

He tells me the focus for Friday is going to be on this. On the members, the 13,000 across the country, across three states that are going to be striking.

But again, he told me the only chance of coming back to the table with automakers on Friday is if one of them brings a new offer, a new deal to the table. Otherwise, Laura, we're not going to see any potential progress until at least Saturday.

COATES: Well, this will be the beginning, it seems, of this very important moment and story.

Gabe Cohen, thank you so much. We're able to get so much coverage on the ground today right here, from the place where the president of the auto union is actually appearing, and picketing, and striking.

Everyone, there is a lot more to the strike. And we're going to cover it right here on CNN. But thank you for watching tonight. Our coverage does continue.