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tv   Washington Journal Steven Greenhouse  CSPAN  April 19, 2022 12:42pm-1:26pm EDT

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your appraisal practices have created some of the worst inequities and inequalities among black and hispanic families. miss rice, can you share -- explain to us how lower appraisals limits the amount of equity a homeowner can earn from their home if they were to sell or refinance? >> this has financial services committee airs tonight on c-span, online at or you can watch on our app, c-span now. now available in the c-span shop, c-span's 2022 congressional directory. go there today and order a copy. this compact spiral bound book
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is your guide with contact information for every member of college. also information for state government -- or scan the code with your smart. -- with your smartphone. host: our next guest is the author of the book beaten down, worked up. the past, present and future of american --. guest: glad to be here. host: we have heard in recent days about amazon, the unionization of that plant in pennsylvania. why is important to the labor union? guest: i decided to -- since
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1995 and i have been writing about labor unions ever since. in staten island, the victory is by four the biggest david versus goliath when for any union in many decades, going back way before i began. host: why is it so big? one, it is so big, second, amazon, if there was any country in the nation that people thought cannot be unionized it is amazon. it is fiercely, ferociously antiunion. it is the only company i have heard of that puts antiunion posters in bathroom stalls so when you are sitting on the can, you have to read amazon's antiunion propaganda. amazon is one of the leading corporations in image and importance today. jeff bezos is one of the
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nation's best known business executive. for a union to be amazon, such a huge facility, that is a big deal. it sends signals to workers and executives across the nation. you might feel you are wonderful to -- you margaret -- amazon is a tough nut to crack and if workers can unionize amazon, we could unionize our work waste, too. to my mind, taking the amazon victory and across the nation, this is one of the most exciting moments for labor unions and workers in decades. it is a lot going on.
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you hear about the first rockclimbing facility in the country. a traveling tour -- there is a lot of excitement among young workers that we can improve and raise our wages and better working conditions by joining a union. host: for the amazon model, what made it successful? guest: one of the amazing aspects about new york city was that it was not done by a great establish powerful union, it was
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done by a union founded by a fired amazon worker and his best friend who continued to work in the staten island warehouse. these two little david's taking on -- and they managed to get some two dozen workers inside the warehouse to join the union effort. these workers are brilliant. they reached out to hundreds and thousands of workers. they spoke to them at the bus stop 24 hours a day, if they are coming and going to the facility, they held barbecues, they had bonfires to speak to the one -- the workers in the winter. they did a good job of butting amazon's argument. one of the main arguments that companies like amazon, walmart
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and starbucks use is saying the union is a third party, they are not us, we do not want the union intervening between you, the wonderful worker and we, the wonderful manager. workers who participated and led the effort to unionize and staten island, we are fellow amazon workers like you, we know the problems amazon workers face because we are amazon workers. we know the stresses, the speed of work. we are not third-party, we represent your interests. we are not trying -- we want to have a functioning union to get better pay from you, better working conditions for you. these workers really -- the
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playing field with unions and workers is maybe -- very heavily. take the amazon union and the effort to unionize amazon in alabama. under american law, companies like amazon can prohibit green organizers. they cannot go on scientists -- go inside to speak to workers. they cannot put flyers on the windshield. if a union worker -- videos in
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the lunchroom, videos in the background, requiring workers to attend. the reason you should join the union, the union is bad, the union is corrupt. there is an imbalance in how much the employer can communicate with the union how much union organizers can communicate. the biggest thing now is the organizers were workers who have the right to enter the building. it is very easy in this self organized, homegrown effort for workers to talk to other workers. that, in many ways was the secret. workers talking to the coworkers. those workers, unlike many outside union organizers could get access to the cafeteria, the break room. they had far more access to the
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workers. host: if you want to ask about these questions involving unions, you can call and let us know. republicans, (202) 748-8001. democrats, (202) 748-8000. independents, (202) 748-8002. and --, (202) 748-8003 you can give us a call at that number. getting unionization is one thing, how do they keep it sustainable without somebody backing them. ? guest: what happened at starbucks is remarkable.
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starbucks, like amazon is a fierce antiunion company. don't even try to unionize us, we are ferociously unionize, you do not have a chance. the initial effort to unionize a few starbucks in buffalo, and in december, the very first workers at a starbucks, for the very first time, unionize. that was the first of 9000 companies owned and operated to unionize. at that excited people. workers, the floodgates open up. i suspect by the end of this year, maybe 500 starbucks stores will seek to unionize.
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that is a lot of momentum. there is a union backing that but there is workers saying, hey, we can do that too. that is not so hard, it is much harder to get more than half of the 5000 or 8000 workers and amazon warehouse to vote to unionize. a big question, how do you continue their momentum. ? the momentum is there at starbucks. at amazon, how do you bring that expertise model to other amazon warehouses? christian smalls, the fired
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amazon worker who started this unionization effort says workers at over 100 other facilities across the united states has contacted him and they say, we true want to unionize. how does he kind of sit down and explain to them, this is how it works? i think he will need some money, some backing, some lawyers, perhaps provided by the unions, so the model of success can be replicated in other cities. there will be other successful unions to.
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we will see what happens there. the victories at amazon and starbucks have created more excitement among workers. especially young workers, anything -- host: this is steven greenhouse in connecticut. he is on our line for republicans. go ahead, stephen with your question or comment. caller: this is a well felicitated announcement from you on unions. everything out of your mouth is how great a union is, does such great things. that union structure, that was a well structured played out attack in new york. it was well coached by the democratic party, backed by unions, coaching these kids to go in and assassinate the amazon structure. the problem is amazon got real sloppy, it got very large.
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pazo's wasn't paying attention. i am totally against unions. i live in a town they probably taxed $3000 for an average square foot home. you go to towns over, garbage men are unionize, workers on the street are unionize, is much as you are praising the union system, it is horrendous how it ruined the american system. unions were great in the 1940's but they are not good today. in thailand, their train system was running 100%, their subways, air trains. in new york city, a horrible city, people attacking people. the trains are consistently broken down. we as americans have to pay for this union system. all the rates and prices go up. you have for workers to everyone
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workers. host: you make those points, caller. we will let our guests respond. guest: i thank you for your question. it is incorrect to say the democrats for coaching these workers. that is just not true. these workers who organized amazon did not assassinate amazon. amazon is doing very well. stock prices soared. it still has lots of customers. these workers, you got some advice from some outside union workers, but it was not a democrat funded group. this democrat consulting from james g was consulting with amazon management. in ways, democrats were helping amazon. both my grandfathers, i am from new york, both my grandfathers
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worked in the garden industry and were both union members. they told my parents how garment jobs used to be terrible jobs and the unions turn those into safe, decent jobs. originally, water jobs, they were lousy jobs, unsafe jobs. in my book, i write about how gm managers require -- that is thanks to the unions organizing the giant companies like general motors and ford in the 1940's in the 1940's and 1950's. the middle class was created in the united states. the american standard of living in the 50's, 60's and 70's was
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the highest in the world. many companies or making dollars after world war ii, key union in the 50's and 60's, they gave workers pension and benefit, that was key to creating the middle class. it might have helped your grandparents as well. a lot of people forget the basic history about how unions have helped. i have written lots of stories about the promise of unions. i have re--- written about corruption. there was corruption in unions but i would argue unions have come a long way in reducing corruption. i would argue there is much less corruption in the union market
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than in the trump administration. union members have done a very good job. my parents built for brand-new houses in their lifetime. i was the kid writing the new schwinn bike. i was determined to get into the plumbers union as my father told me son, i love you, but you're too much of a baller to be an electrician. you should be a plumber. i stood in a line with a 1000 other guys, grown men trying to get into local 51 of the plumbers. we were going to take 25 apprentices. when i look at that, in those days, that was a tighter class
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size than any ivy league college. i thought how my going to do this? i went down and joined the air force as a plumber. for the next six years, i traveled the world as a plumber. eventually, i did get in. i went to school another five years. and became a journeyman, and all the documents that go with it. i was working journeyman, with documents my name. a contractor can't do the work unless you got the guys with me -- like me with all the documents. for the next 25 years, i was able to do that every day. the day i turned 57, i was able to walk away. i feel sorry for anybody who
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thinks they're going to live on social security. you are not going to do it. even now. host: got a point. mr. greenhouse? guest: i think you make an important point. we keep hearing people say the way to get ahead in american society, the way to make a good living is to go to college. not everyone can go to college. not everyone can afford it. i often say every high school class has a -- not all of them are quick to go to college. there are great jobs like being a plumber, an electrical worker, taking a union apprenticeship. that way, unions and their partnerships play an important role in creating good livings for people who do not go to college.
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i was often upset when president obama said, parents, the way for your kids to get ahead and make a solid living is to go to college. the implication was if you don't go to college, you are a loser. and we are not going to help you. i think joe biden gets it. he realizes the importance of going to college. if you can't afford for your college, try to go to community college. biden is pushing hard to increase the amount of apprenticeships for young people who don't go to college so they can earn a good living two. i think ted presents a great case of how working for a, doing manual labor is work that is extremely helpful to society. it is work that deserves a lot of respect and you can make a darn good living doing it. i'm jealous of you. i'm sure many of our listeners are as of that you are able to retire at 57. host: mr. greenhouse, this is a
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viewer off of twitter, it is true of the union made the middle-class class, it was the fact we were the only industrialized nation not in that state of war, the state of living would rise regardless. guest: thank you. i'm sorry to say you are half right. after world war ii, we were the king of the hill, japan's economy, euros so economy was devastated. that -- europe's economy was devastated. gm, ford, u.s. steel went like gangbusters. in the years after the war, they were not sharing the wealth with workers. in the late 1940's, there was little or no american middle class. the companies are keeping the profits for themselves. speak to historians, read the books, they explained that the general motors strike in 1946 in
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the landmark truck -- contracts, fortune magazine wrote that the key general motors uaw contract in 1952, they called it the treaty of detroit. it went so far in enriching workers and improving their fate and creating the middle class. and when general motors, the archetypal american companies at the way amazon and apple are today, when general motors and ford and u.s. steel, the three leading companies of the united states reach these big labor contracts with much better wages, all these companies are being unionized too. they said if we want to keep our workers, we got to pay better wages. i disagree strongly. i think it is wrong of you to say the unions did not play a
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big role. yes american companies were doing well, so they had the profits to enable them to raise wages, to lift workers to middle-class levels. it was partly the bloom after world war ii -- the boom after world war ii. it was very much workers that -- unions that made sure work companies showed their profits with workers. for the first time many workers could afford to buy houses and cars. host: from las vegas, we will hear from mason, independent line. caller: i meant to call c-span, i'll make it work. i see myself, i am a marxist like you, most of all i am an american. guest: i'm not a marxist. caller: how do i start the workers revolt?
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my last question, do you know why elon musk is headed to mars, to outer space, it is because a guillotine -- host: we will go to bob, a union worker in ohio. guest: i'm not a marxist. host: bob, i union worker in akron, ohio. caller: high, first time caller. i've been listening, i feel like the history is being lost here. words like living wage, 30 hour work week, eight hour workdays, lunch breaks. overtime pay, the coal miners started all this in west virginia way back when. people died on the picket line there. they brought in the pinkertons and things like that.
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there was a lot of people that brought the movement to the forefront. a lot of the things that people enjoy today are from those people working hard in those companies did not profit from those union workers. they are all doing well. gm, ford, everything like that. i'm just saying, the teamsters, the uaw, people who make tires, those created a lot of wealth for union people. but they also created a lot of work for companies -- well for companies. guest: you are absolutely right. too many americans forget, americans used to work 78, 80 hours a week. 12 to 15-year-olds eased working coal mines, factories. we've all seen the bumper
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sticker, unions brought in the weekend. that's true. a lot of people, for people -- reasons i don't understand, no institution is perfect. people forget that it is unions that played such a major role lifting typical american workers. we've gone from workers working seven days a week to having a two day weekend. we've gone from workers working 60, 70 hours a week to 40 hours a week. we ended child labor. many workplaces were far from -- far more dangerous before unions came along. i agree, unions have played a big role. i think a lot of americans today take for granted what they have now is a birthright. they forget it was decades of struggle by the coal miner union and steelworkers union and
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garment workers union that played a major role in lifting american working conditions and living standards to what they are today. it is so easy to say unions stink, they are bad. without unions, our nation, in my mind would be much worse off. americans would have much worse working conditions. we would not be earning nearly as much. host: mr. greenhouse, you have probably seen the statistics going back to 1983, about 20% of the u.s. population are members of the union. that drops to 10% in 2021. 14 billion people currently in the union, 7 million in the public sector, -- 14 million people currently in the unions. 7 million in the public sector, 7 million in the private sector. guest: we've gone from in the 1950's, labor unions one and
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three workers. in 1980, dropped to one and. now it is one in 10, 10%. and private sector, just one in 16 workers is in the union. one of the craziest things, their surveys done by professionals m.i.t. and columbia that show one into american workers say they would like to join a union if they could, yet very few workers are in unions. i think there are three to four big reasons, i spent several chapters explaining. one reason is globalization. some may american companies shut factories and moved operations to china or sri lanka or bangladesh. manufacturing was for a long time the base of unions. as factories closed, many union members lost their jobs, that
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reduced -- a second reason. in my book i argued that corporations, fight harder to keep unions than corporations 90 other wealthy industrial nations. i used to beat the european economics correspondent for the new york times. i interviewed top executives in european countries. they sought unions as legitimate institutions, treated them as social partners, that you have to work with unions to create greater productivity, greater profits and greater prosperity. in the united date, i find that so many corporations, exemplified by amazon and starbucks and walmart, are super antiunion. they don't see unions as legitimate.
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they see them as the enemy to crush, to get rid of. i think that is a major reason why unions decline. in the 1950's and 60's, americans saw unions much more as partners. from the 1980's, the rise of milton friedman and chicago school economics, and libertarian economics, there was much more hostility toward unions and corporations started fighting against unions. a third reason for the decline in unions is that the nature of our economy, our model of capitalism change. it used to be more managers ran the show, in the 1950's and 1960's of the corporate headquarters was right next to a factory. people knew each other and got along. living in the same town as the ceo. we want to make sure that the
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workers were treated well. they were maybe a little generous in pay, shareholders did not try to get rid of them. come in the 1980's, 1980's, early 2000, wall street, a model of economy exchange to what many people call financial capitalism. wall street hedge funds, mutual funds had more power, they put more pressure on corporate executives to maximize profits, share prices, as a result, corporations got much tougher and holding down wages and fighting unions. he had a combination of globalization, increased efforts to fight unions, also, when factory workers in ohio or would michigan or wisconsin or i what were demanding a raise, the company might say, you see competition from china, the workers will get 50% of what you
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get paid. you just shut up, we can't give you what you are asking for. that would make us uncompetitive. that also undercut the appeal of unions. that is another reason why union decline in manufacturing was putting downward pressure on wages. now the unionization efforts are not in manufacturing, we are seeing efforts to unionize retail, newspapers and journalism. there's a huge amount of unionization of workers with nonprofits. there are certain sectors of the economy, and now starbucks, where unionization is spreading like wildfire. some union experts and professors are asking whether this current news amazon and starbucks will finally enable
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more workers to unionize and whether that will finally reverse the decline in the percentage of american workers were in unions. host: a few more minutes with our guests, this is frank in west virginia, a union member. caller: good morning. host: go ahead with your question or comment. caller: [indiscernible] the unions make this country. but they threw it all away. back then, had respect, you could buy a house, a vehicle as a working man.
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technology wasn't there then. now, for some reason, i've got asbestos in my lungs, a messed up. it's a shame what's happened here. people shouldn't have to send their kids at 11 and 12 years old into a coal mine, they would understand better. how people had to live. and company town, east of the company source of all that. it's good to you. have a good date, god bless you, goodbye. host: guest: i appreciate your call. i mentioned before how unions have played such a huge role in
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ending child labor. you mentioned that your father and your grandfather started working in the minds at the age of 11. there are very eloquent pictures , the boys and coal mines at 10, 12 years old. unions played such a big role in ending some of the worst exploitation in our economy. so much news coverage nowadays is about jeff bezos and elon musk, and they deserve a lot of praise and attention, they have their downsides too. too often, others who have fight the daily fight to make things better, civil rights leaders, labor leaders, rank-and-file workers, they are often overlooked. on my favorite quotes about workers and labor comes from the reverend dr. martin luther king jr.. he said the labor movement was
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the principal source the transformed industry into open progress, evidence struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, and new wage levels that meant not only survival but the tolerable life. the captains of industry did not believe this transformation, they resisted it until they were overcome. a lot of ceos were not eager to raise wages. it took fighting some struggles, some pushing and pulling to get these corporations to pay adequate wages to lift workers into the middle class. i am sure that was true in the coal industry as well, as frank will attest. host: let's hear from the last colors, this is mike in indiana, republican line. good morning. caller: the gentleman there talked about the union, i live about 50 miles from the illinois
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border. here, the union jobs come over to indiana, illinois is a failed state, we know that. most union states are in the red. most nonunion states are in the black. that's a fact. new york, california, illinois, those are union states. i don't know what happened to the union, it sure has failed us lately. host: that's mike. guest: thanks for your question. i don't know the numbers, i am sure that there are some red states, i believe kansas, which is not a strongly union state, are usually in the red. over 30 million people in california, would take issue with you when you say it is a
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failed state. i live in new york state. i know that i and many of our neighbors and friends would say what you mean new york is a failed state? why are so many businesses moving to create jobs in california, in chicago, in new york city? it doesn't look -- they have big cities, many cities have problems. i could make the case that some people from certain political party have not provided adequate resources to cities to ensure that there is enough money to fund the subways or police department or schools. indiana, is a successful state. illinois, in many ways is a successful state, it is running a deficit for many reasons. california is a phenomenally successful state, that is why so
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many businesses want to go there. new york is a very successful state. there may successful states. it is too easy to say a state has failed, too easy to blame things on unions. we had this horrible recession in 2008, which was not -- in no way caused by unions, it was created by the humongous responsibility of the banking and mortgage industry and not enough federal regulation. we this other recession now because of covid-19. i would say, it's way too simplistic to say we have a problem, let's blame it on unions. it is true that sometimes, higher union wages may lead to higher deficit. may people forget that teachers and firefighters who risked their lives every day on the job, police officers risk their
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lives every day on the job, sanitation workers who do such important work, subway conductors, who do their job isn't fun, working underground, they deserve to make a decent living. that might mean paying them decent pay. a lot of them think they don't deserve decent pay, they are government workers subs they are supported by a union. people like elon musk and jeff bezos are worth hundred and $50 billion, people are criticizing workers for trying to make sure the firefighters and cops and social workers and teachers make 50,000 dollars a year -- $50,000 a year so they can begin to make a decent living and have a family. for some people, reflectively criticize unions and to appreciate all unions have done over american history and are
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still doing. i'm not saying there are no problems with unions, unions have really cleaned up their act in many ways with regard to corruption, discrimination. host: i apologize. mr. greenhouse, or guesses with the century foundation, the senior fellow. you've heard reference to his book, thanks for your time today. guest: great to be here. >> today on c-span, a look at the military budget and potential security threats with air force secretary drink kendall, live from the national press at 2 p.m. eastern. later in the day, we talk about strengthening democracy here and abroad in a conversation hosted by american, live at 7:00 eastern. all of our live coverage is available to watch at or on our free video app, c-span now.
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