tv Newsmakers Mary Kay Henry SEIU CSPAN August 12, 2019 1:55pm-2:31pm EDT
billion views -- when somebody like dennis prager is getting a billion views on what he puts out. ♪ for 40 years, c-span has been providing america unfiltered coverage of congress, white house, the supreme court, and public policy events from washington, d.c. and around the country. created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. joining us from las vegas is the president of the service employees international union, mary kay henry. joining us with questioning is ginger gibson, lyrical reporter for writers and andrew, who
covers labor for bloomberg law. let me begin with a question front and center in the democratic party -- the debate for medication -- medicaid -- , who arefor all advocating a public option and keeping private insurance. what is your view? i thought it created a false choice between union members who bargained health care benefits and millions of americans who have enjoyed the expansion of health care through the medicaid system. for decades, our members have been fighting for health in this nation and i think the best of the democratic bait is when we stick to the principal of how are we going to cover americans with quality, affordable health care for everyone. host: you support private health
insurance along with public plans? guest: yes, we support every policy that allows for more people to be covered for health care coverage. that is why we think it is so important for working people to be able to join together and bargain a better life by having a seat at the table with their employers and that is why we are making the demand for unions for all in this presidential cycle. host: do you worry that if the democrats nominate a candidate that is proposing medicare for all, eliminating private health insurance, that the candidate will go down in defeat? guest: i think the candidate that gets chosen by the democrats is going to be because in the people have been streets and mobilizing and backing a candidate because what we want our concrete plans and actions to bargain a better life for ourselves and our families. that is a fundamental value of all working people in this economy and i think we will see
someone emerge from the democratic field that has the full support of working people and we need bold ideas because the level of inequality in this country has gotten so severe that we want to see the waysrats speak to concrete that people have affordable health care coverage and we will be able to secure a future for our families in the next generation and that we get health care that our loved ones deserve. host: let me turn to ginger gibson of reuters. ginger: we have seen a couple candidates in this field put labor specific policy proposals. elizabeth warren talks a good deal about labor unions and her how thesens, but
democrats are doing in the field so far and talking about the issues that are specific to labor unions. think threeek -- candidates have offered specific plans and concrete actions that would make it possible for millions more working people to join together in unions and we are anxious to see the same thing from the entire democratic field. i was with a security officer last week, dolores mcdaniel, and she spoke about her life and protecting billion-dollar buildings that are owned by major corporations in this country, but she doesn't earn enough to be able to support herself and her granddaughter. she lives in subsidized public housing. she may have to qualify for food stamps month to month. and that condition has got to be spoken to by every presidential candidate. and pete buttigieg walked with her and talked with her about how he wants to make it possible
to pull working people and major corporations together international bargaining table to be able to raise living standards for workers all across industries. for delores, instead of just organizing the 1000 security officers in detroit, she would be part of a national bargaining table with 2 million security officers with the major corporations that employ them in this economy. we want to see that kind of imagination and concrete plan from every presidential candidate. ginger: you said three candidates. can you elaborate on which of those three candidates have produced plans that you feel are detailed enough? mary kay: governor jay inslee,
mayor pete buttigieg, and mayor bill de blasio. and we think governor inslee and pete buttigieg's plans distinguish themselves. in additions to the one you just heard about with pete buttigieg and security, both inns lee and pete buttigieg want to tie several dollars used to contract across the economy for delivery, call centers, food service, tied those public dollars to the ability for workers to be a to join together in unions and have a decent wage, so they can support themselves and their families. that there would be no tax subsidy for corporations that are paying poverty wages from the federal government. and that is a concrete intervention that would allow millions of workers to have a better life. host: andrew allender covers labor for bloomberg law. he is next. andrew: to follow up on that, you appeared in detroit on the debate stage and you told the democratic candidates that they are going to need to do more for labor. what more are they going to need to do for labor to win union approval? mary kay: we have been really pleased with the candidates that have spoken to unions.
we want to hear more than people's pedigree in the sense of their parent or grandparent having been a union member. that is why concrete, specific ways in which working people can join together and bargain a better life is what our members and the fight for 15 leaders want to see from every presidential candidate because we know that when one in for -- in four working people have unions in this country, wages were going up in this country and we had good jobs in the economy. now, one in 10 working people have the ability to bargain and we have an increase in poverty wage work in this country. that is why we want to see from presidential candidates, how are you going to use every ounce of your power to get mcdonald's, wendy's, and burger king to a national bargaining table that we can raise wages for 4 million fast food workers in this country and do in the u.s. what
those corporations do in other parts of the world, where they pay $20 an hour in denmark, and a fast food worker can do one job and lead a decent life. we think the rules they play by in other countries, they are to -- they ought to be able to play by those in this country, and the next president of the united states can make that happen. andrew: can you tune us in a little bit about how the seiu is going to be taking pulse of your members about who to contribute to for campaigns and who to potentially endorse? are you planning on endorsing a candidate? how is that going to work? mary kay: we want a very robust engagement of our members. it began with a forum called "we the people" in d.c. that seiu did with eight other organizations, where our members interacted with the candidates before they spoke to the crowd, and then afterward. and then we repeated it in vegas with a forum on work in the economy that we sponsored with cap.
we had 400 members there. they were able to interact directly with candidates. we livestreamed it. 6000 members watched it. in each of the early primary states, we have done town halls with presidential candidates that are recorded, put on websites, so the rest of our members can see these candidates. we want to create as many opportunities as we can for both nonunion workers and our members to interact with candidates and get a sense of their authentic commitment to help restore the power of working people in this economy and put a check on corporate power that we think is totally out of control in our economy and in our democracy. andrew: how does that compare to 2016 and what did you learn the last time around during the presidential campaign? mary kay: in 2016, our members interacted in the early primary states and we did polling of our members three times before our
endorsement, but this time because of the breadth of the field and the issues being discussed, our members wanted to take our time. we are going to do a summit in october in los angeles that will have 800 seiu members, 200 nonunion workers, where we will be able to interact with the presidential candidates and see whether there is growing momentum for any one of them. frankly, we want to see more candidates offer concrete ideas and specific plans for how working people are going to be able to join together in unions all across the economy. host: let me follow up on andrew's question. any regrets about the process in 2016? would you have done anything differently? mary kay: i think many of our leaders wanted us to spend more time and slow down once bernie sanders entered the race, but
there overwhelmingly, seiu leaders as part of the board discussion when we adopted the 2020 criteria, we took stock of the lessons we learned in 2016 and are building on lessons where we understood that at local union executive boards, we need to have more robust engagement. our local union presidents are building that in this time around. host: ginger gibson. ginger: staying on the topic of 2020, your union has one of the most diverse memberships of public or any labor unions. one of the criticisms of democrats in the 2016 campaign was that those minority voters were taken for granted and not enough was done to court their support. do you see democrats making those same mistakes when you talk to your members now? do you think that there is any correction being made to try to prevent that in this election? mary kay: we concur with the critique that our politics does not speak enough to communities
of color who need to be motivated by issues -- speaking directly to the issues in their lives and in their communities. we doubled down in the 2018 midterm in reaching out in black, api, and latino communities to reach out to infrequent voters and connect the dots for how how we need to join together and exercise our right to vote to check corporate power in the democracy. and we showed through a lot of engagement on the issues that it is possible for people to turn out in record numbers, as they did in 2018. we think the same thing has to happen in 2020, that it is about our union's commitment with the rest of the labor union and -- labor movement and our partners in environmental, immigration, climate change movements to double down in outreach into the neighborhoods
that need to be engaged in the democracy. that is the best way, we think, in order to activate the communities that need to show up and vote in 2020. andrew: changing gears slightly, as we talk about the presidential campaigns, there has been a big debate in the labor world for a number of years now about how to divide resources and whether to spend time and money organizing or to spend more time and money with political campaigns and legislative activity. where do you think the balance lies and how does the seiu think about this problem or devote resources? mary kay: well, we know that the priority for our resources is in educating and mobilizing working people. that has been our trademark and our signature for decades and we are going to double down on it in 2019 and 2020, in getting our members educated on the issues,
and in mobilizing the communities that need to show up and vote in 2020. white, black, brown, asian, every community has a stake in this election, because we know that unions are a fundamental american value and the ability of working people to join together in unions and have the power to address things matters for everything in their lives. i remember being with a fast food workers in new york state after they won $15 through the wage board that governor cuomo convened and they put their elbows on the table and said, now we won $15, let's end stop and frisk, that's reduced deportation. there is a way in which people's success in winning economic gains for themselves and their families unleashes their optimism and hope that they can make change in every aspect of their lives and improve their communities. andrew: has the need to organize
changed at all with regard to last year's supreme court decision? how has that affected your union? has that made it more urgent to organize workers? mary kay: yes, i think what it did was unleash the resilience of our public service members who were impacted by that decision. there was a previous decision on harris versus quinn that impacted our home care workers in the same way. they actually led the way for our public service members, by declaring that no court decision, no president of the united states, no state legislature, no governor is going to stand in the way of us joining together and building a better life for ourselves and our family. i would say that all of these systematic attacks on working people and unions has intensified the resilience we feel and made it much more critical for us to insert the
demand for unions for all, no matter where you work and expecting the presidential candidates to speak to how are they going to check corporate power in this economy and make it easier for working people to join together and build a better life? host: i want to go back to the issue of minimum wage and ask you how you would frame the debate. president trump has said he would go after any democrat forcing the heavy hand of government. you mentioned mcdonald's and burger king with raising the minimum wage. but his point is it will for -- force small businesses to raise prices or go out of businesses. what is your argument to that? mary kay: i think that that is completely not supported by any of the experience that we have had in cities and states all across this country, where we have raised wages, either by voters overwhelmingly approving it in places like arkansas or the people of seatac against a $4 million opposition campaign raising the minimum wage.
we now have 22 million people who have won raises through city and state action and then scores of nonunion employers, facebook, amazon, target, have all gone to $15 per hour. when people have more money in their pockets, they spend it in their communities and small businesses grow. university of washington study that screams the same fear tactic about small businesses declining actually reversed itself four years later in the adult and said the data they were looking at was wrong and that small businesses actually grow. frankly, it is sort of comments -- common sense to working people in this country. when we have more money in our pockets, there has been economic growth in cities and states. there are 64 million people in this nation that earn less than $15 per hour.
and it is just wrong. you cannot make it on $7.29 an hour as the fast food workers in detroit earn. that is why we think trump's argument is baloney. we need to get behind the movement to ways -- to raise wages. we also need to make the demand for unions in this economy and democracy because unions are a way to make these raises stick. unions are a way to change every aspect of our lives. that is why we are doubling down on the demand for unions. quickly, how many are teenagers working odd jobs versus providers of families. mary kay: i thought the fight for 15 busted that myth several years ago. we learned that the average fast food worker age is 28 years old. mostly moms and dads trying to
make their and me for their ends meet for their kids. the idea that these jobs were done by high school students with pocket change is incorrect. we need to understand that the growth of poverty wage worked in -- work in this country is not allowing us to break the cycle of generational poverty. that is why i was so proud to march in detroit last week with a fast food worker, mother of two and she wants to break the cycle of generational poverty for herself and her kids. her mom was a fast food worker. she has tried to go to school, she cannot stay in school. because the schedule is so crazy. that is why we want to bargain a better life for everybody in this country. host: ginger gibson of reuters. ginger: as a former teenage mcdonald's employee myself, i'm going to move on to another
subject. immigration has been a topic of political debate for the last few years and appears to be again. we hear deming -- hear democrats criticizing other democrats that they say are too lenient, decriminalizing border crossing, for example. they argue that those types of positions are used by republicans to tell working people like your members that they are going to let immigrants come across the border and take their job. we don't have to look very hard to hear that. the president says that himself. what would you say to those democrats having that debate? whether or not this language about immigration makes working-class people nervous? mary kay: i have to say, as i listen to your question, all i can think about are the hundreds of workers who were deported last night from mississippi after an ice raid in their food processing plant.
our union today is reaching out about what legal support we can provide for the children who were in school and got out of school not having their parents pick them up or greet them at home. i have to send -- say to democrats that we have to remember that the fear campaign being run by this president and the politics of white supremacy have to be named and called out. and in the immigrant communities that we are working in and that our members live in, there has been a reign of terror and fear that is being overcome with the resilience that immigrant members feel when they are backed by members of the union that are white, brown, asian,
black. we are not going to let the politics of white supremacy divide us against each other and we are not going to be distracted from the fact that this president wakes up every day trying to put more power in the hands of corporations that are wreaking havoc on these communities of color. i really want the presidential debate on the democratic side to put in context the politics that have been driven, that the immigrant communities have been in the target of and that we need to call it out and remember that we are going to galvanize these communities and have their backs and show up in record numbers to get trump out in 2020. ginger: just to follow-up, would you support decriminalizing undocumented border crossings if a democrat were able to push that legislation?
mary kay: i think that that question is a way in which we keep the politics of fear going. i think that we are for a common sense immigration reform in this country that allows people who are seeking asylum to come into this country. we also have to have an immigration system where people who play by the rules are welcomed. and then yes, people who have committed crimes need to be dealt with by our immigration system, but that is the minority and we are having the debate as if everyone that is coming across our southern border is a criminal and we reject that notion. we think it is the way in which fear is being mongered in our
politics and trying to divide working people from each other. and we are not going to allow it. immigrants are hard-working people in this country that contribute to every community and we are going to insist on a nation that welcomes immigrants. host: are there any issues that you can work with this president on? mary kay: i would love to work with any president on how we are going to end poverty wage work in this country and runaway corporate greed. i would be very anxious to hear how are we going to get major corporations to acknowledge that they are earning record profits and people are still working to -- working two and three jobs but still living in poverty? any president willing to tackle that, we would be happy to work with. andrew: beyond legislation, what has been the effect of president
trump's nominees at the department of labor, national labor relations board, what is the effect of those appointments on your union and the labor movement at large? mary kay: each one of those appointments tries to figure out how to further rigged the rules -- rig the rules for corporations and billionaires in our economy. i think we have a president that wakes up every day trying to think about how to reward corporations and billionaires and not working people. those appointments simply are part of that pattern. that is why it is important that we mobilize, get into the streets, and make a demand that for working people to be able to join together in unions, so that working people have the power to place a check on corporations and our economy and democracy. host: we have a minute or two left.
andrew allender? andrew: what are your thoughts on president trump appointing eugene scalia to be the new secretary of labor? mary kay: that is just more of the same. the department of labor has become the department of corporations, that we see one ruling after another that was meant to protect working people being undone, and we have seen the department of labor care more about how corporations are thriving rather than the vast majority of working people who are stitching together two and three jobs and trying to make ends meet. that is why we think it is so important to double down, educate our members, educate our working people, and organize in fast food, airports, higher education, all of the workers being impacted by the negative economic policies of this president. people have to show up and vote in 2020 and elect a president that is going to allow us to have a seat at the table and a voice in our economy and our
democracy. host: ginger gibson, last question. ginger: also on this administration's policies, the unions were staunch critics of trade practices of countries like china. the president has implemented a good deal of tariffs against that country, threatened more. could you see these playing out in a way that you would be happy how the outcome, given strong he has been on the trade issue? mary kay: no, because those trade policies are being written to rigged the trade policy and have not factored in working people in a way that would make them fair trade deals. host: finally, you talked about the process of endorsing a democratic nominee. what about the timeline? when do you think you will make a decision and you could announce it? mary kay: we want to make a decision when a majority of the presidential candidates have answered the demand that working people are making for how are
you going to make it possible for millions more workers to join unions? and give us specific proposals about concrete actions you would take as president. when we are able to hear that more consistently from every candidate that we are engaging, we will then consider when is the best time for us to endorse. host: joining us from las vegas is the president of the service employees international union, mary kay henry. thank you for being with us here on c-span. mary kay: thank you. host: we continue the conversation. ginger gibson, how important is this endorsement? ginger: i think it carries a good deal of weight. not just to convince her members who they should vote for, but to organize her members to campaign for whoever they get behind. unions still carry a good deal of organizational weight in their communities. they are still able to sway their neighbors often in particularly close races like this. it is not just her members, who they're voting for, and not even
anymore the money they put behind candidates, but it's the organizational effort. host: the three candidates that she mentioned, two of them, mayor de blasio and governor jay inslee, are in the very low single digits right now in the polls. ginger: yes, if that endorsement came quickly and it was one of them, that could be a game changer for either one of them, particularly in a state like iowa or new hampshire, where they have a pretty large presence. i think that even for mayor buttigieg, who has really plateaued at about 8% or 9% for the last few months, a backing of a union would be a very sizable boost. host: andrew wallender, you brought a couple of issues involving the national labor relations board and the new labor secretary nominee -- what is happening in those areas? why your line of questioning? andrew: i think with the national labor relations board, they have been looking at various ways to rework the interpretation of the labor laws in this country that make it harder for unions to organize in certain circumstances and make
it harder in different ways for them to reach potential union members. it's interesting to hear how unions are responding to that. some unions have stopped filing as many unfair labor practice charges which would set off an investigation with the nlrb for fear that the nlrb might take those and use it as an opportunity to reinterpret labor laws. finally, the issue of minimum wage. how big of an issue will this be among the democratic voters in the primary season? ginger: i think it is a position most democratic voters agree upon. we don't see a lot of variations among their candidates or the electorate. if somebody was against it or arguing the opposite, i think it could play more of a role in the primary, but i think they are all singing out of the same songbook. host: you got minimum wage when you worked at mcdonald's? ginger: i did not. i started a tiny bit above minimum wage.
steve: we will give you the last word. andrew: i agree with that. you did not see minimum wage come up as much at the last debate and i think that shows some sort of consensus building among the democrats, that this is an issue they all support. steve: andrew wallender, who covers labor issues for bloomberg law, and ginger gibson, political reporter for reuters, to both of you, thanks for joining us on c-span's "newsmakers" program. have a good weekend. announcer: tonight i data -- at 8:00 on c-span, robert gates. nbc news correspondent andrea mitchell and journalist robin wright discuss global challenges facing the united states. here is a preview. i am as much of a realist as anybody.
the reality is the united states has done business with some of history's greatest monsters. but frankly -- but franklin d roosevelt never pretended to be in love with joseph stalin. in the real world, we have to deal with these people. but we don't have to embrace them. and we can treat the leaders of authoritarian states, we can do business with them, but we don't need to embrace them in the same way that we embrace the leaders of the democratically elected governments. announcer: that was some of the conversation. you can watch it tonight in its entirety at 8:00 eastern here on c-span. weeknights this month, we featuring booktv. showcasing what is available every weekend on cspan 2. tonight, the theme is biographies. george packer talks about the life and career of diplomat
richard holbrook. martha saxton, history and women's study professor at amherst college recalls a life of george washington's mother. josh leven, national editor at slate, talks about linda taylor, a criminal whose exploits launched the idea of the welfare queen in the united states. you can watch that tonight starting at 8:30 eastern on cspan 2. also this month, we are showcasing american history tv in prime time as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, we examine congressional history. the u.s. capitol historic society hosted an event celebrating the 116th congress which started its two-year term in january. house speaker nancy pelosi was among the speakers. the program featured remarks by historian joanne freeman on her book "the field of blood: violence in congress on the road to civil war." you can watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern on c-span3 and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3.
announcer: tonight on the communicators, -- >> people come up to me and they say sir, i can't follow you. they make it impossible. these are people that are really good at what they do. they say, they make it absolutely impossible. announcer: we will talk about the recent presidential social media summit where president trump discusses social media censorship by big tech firms and what should be done about it with robber blew a from the heritage foundation and patrick hedger from the competitive enterprise institute. >> i think as consumers, we can certainly demand that as users of facebook and twitter and google, if we are going to be on the platform, we expect they will respect our ability to communicate. if we don't like it, we can quit. >> it seems hard to levy an accusation that big tech is a net negative in any way, shape, or form to conservative speech when someone like dennis krieger is getting one billion views on
the products and visit -- videos he is putting out. announcer: watch the communicators tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan 2. fromncer: now, remarks several presidential candidates from this weekend's iowa state fair. we will hear from vermont independent senator bernie sanders, republican bill weld, colorado democratic senator michael bennet, and businessman tom steyer he recently joined the race. this is just under four hours. >> we love the signs. so let's raise them high. [applause] [inaudible]