The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sept. 17, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we did ask all of the Big Three automakers to come on the show this morning and they declined. We turn now to Democratic Congressman Debbie Dingell, who has longtime ties to GM and the auto industry. She represents Detroit and is in Southfield, Michigan this morning. Congresswoman, you have said these are the most important negotiations you’ve witnessed in your lifetime, you have long standing ties to these automakers, is it really more significant than when the Bush and Obama administrations bailed out the automakers?
REP. DINGELL: Yes, it’s far more significant. And I’ll tell you why. Those days were- these companies were facing bankruptcy. And quite frankly, it was because of management decisions. And the auto workers were scared for their jobs, and they stepped up. And they gave away their cost of living increases to help. They gave in 2008 and 2009. Now the companies are back in a strong position. But really where the rubber hits the road, Margaret, we are in a transition of this industry, we’re competing in a world marketplace. That- we- are- some of the countries in Europe, you’ll see in the last quarter, the electric vehicle sales are more than 50% of the sales. That’s what we’re competing in. And we have to make sure the worker is part of this transition, it should not be either or, it needs to be both. We’ve got to make sure the worker can afford to buy that electric vehicle, that they’re gonna have the support that they do, and we’ve got to make sure we’re paying a fair and decent wage. And all workers, everybody in this country benefits when workers are paid well,
MARGARET BRENNAN: But those electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants, so many of them are joint ventures that they are partially foreign owned, they are not unionized. That’s a choice. How do you reverse that?
REP. DINGELL: Well, I mean, that is something that’s very real. And on the table right now, is really- there’s probably only one battery plant that may be under the master agreement. We’ve got to- it’s not an easy question. It’s not easy to deal with. And I also want to say something else that everybody doesn’t understand. Yeah, Tesla does have a huge discrepancy in what they’re paying their employees. And most people in this country can’t afford a Tesla, even a lot of executives can’t afford to buy a Tesla. But the fact of the matter is that most- at a Toyota, I’ve looked at the studies, almost all workers at auto plants benefit from where these negotiations go. This is where the rubber hits the road, we got to figure out how we’re going to do this transition, how we’re going to go from the transition of an internal combustion engine, which- and pay people who are making that battery, a decent wage, similar to what they’re making for ICE, and they’re going to be new jobs, and different jobs that are going to come from this transition. But it’s not a talking point moment. This is a real, intentional, hard moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said he was sending his staff to Detroit, they’re not there right now. We- you just heard Sean fain say something about the White House injecting themselves into negotiations. Do you think the President- White House should intervene?
REP. DINGELL: First of all, I do not believe that the President should intervene or be at the negotiating table. I’ve said that from the beginning. But you know, if anything that the pandemic has just taught us, is that- like- who’s in an office and who’s working? I talk to Gene Sperling multiple times a day and have all summer. So there are- I don’t think they’ve got a role at the negotiating table. I think every one of us that are policymakers and other stakeholders, need to understand what these issues are, what we can do to support those discussions at the table. And what we need to do coming out of these to help make a strong, viable, competitive industry that’s employing American jobs. And I’m not going to let these electric vehicles be built in China, even though someone else says they want to build 100% in China, I’m fighting to make sure they’re here with good paying American jobs. Union jobs.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know, Michigan, I don’t have to tell you this, that it is a competitive state, we’re going into an election year. I just asked Shawn Fain what it would take for the union to endorse President Biden who says he’s the most pro-union president ever. And he said that has to be earned. That’s a pretty big statement.
REP. DINGELL: You know- I’m going- first of all, he’s also said that Donald Trump’s it- would be a disaster, and I could go into that at length. But I really have to tell you that I think that we got to keep these two issues totally separate. I’m really worried about what’s happening at the table. And that it’s going to set- it’s going to- it is going to determine the future of the auto industry in Michigan. I want to keep presidential politics out of this and do what’s right from a policy perspective. Then we can talk about the presidential election, Michigan’s a competitive state, I keep telling you all it’s a purple state. It’s not a blue state. But when we get a good agreement that keeps America strong, keeps our workers strong, then I think they’ll know who they’re going to support. They’re going to support someone that supports the American worker.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, but Democrats love to stay that they are–
REP. DINGELL: And that’s something, by the way, that doesn’t care about–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, go ahead, sorry.
REP. DINGELL: Well, no, I mean, you know, everybody’s like, Donald Trump says he’s gonna swoop in and do a pickup. I mean, he doesn’t care about their pay raises. He doesn’t care about COLA, he doesn’t care about retirement. He doesn’t care about pinches, he doesn’t care. I mean, last time he campaigned in Michigan, he told the companies they should move to other states where they pay people less money. So I think that we all as policymakers need to understand the issues. How do we support this transition, so that we are staying competitive in this country? But I want to do presidential politics after this is done at the table and we are keeping a strong, viable industry, which is make the workers part of the success.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Debbie Dingell, Congresswoman, I appreciate your insight. “Face the Nation” will be back in a minute. Stay with us.
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