Sanders praises auto workers striking against 'disgusting' corporate 'greed and arrogance'

Sanders praises auto workers striking against 'disgusting' corporate 'greed and arrogance'
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a press conference on raising the federal minimum wage outside the U.S. Capitol Building May 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. During his remarks Sanders announced that he would be introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images).

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) told MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Thursday's edition of All In that working-class Americans are "sick and tired" of the extreme wealth disparity between themselves and corporate titans as auto workers are poised to strike against the Big Three car manufacturers.

Hayes and Sanders also commended United Auto Workers Union President Shawn Fain for standing in solidarity with industry employees who are demanding higher pay as their companies rake in massive profits and their bosses earn gigantic salaries.

"Do you have a kind of rooting interest here of the outcome you want to see?" Hayes asked Sanders.

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"Yeah, the outcome I want to see is that the UAW workers get the kind of contract they deserve," Sanders responded. "You know, the corporate media hasn't covered this very well, but the reality is over the last twenty years, real wages for automobile workers has gone down by thirty percent when you account for inflation. So what the workers are saying is at a time when the CEOs of Ford — he makes $21 million, the guy who's head of Stellantis, he makes $25 million a year, the woman who's head of General Motors, $29 million — their salaries have gone up by forty percent over the last four years. They have billions of dollars for dividends and stock buybacks. And what the workers are saying is, 'Hey, we made you those profits. We gave you those salaries. Pay attention to our needs.' We don't want to see a situation where workers at the low end make it all of $17 an hour. And I'll tell you something, Chris. You mentioned that all over this country we're seeing strikes, and you're right. And I think what's happening is working people all across this country are sick and tired of the corporate greed they are seeing every day. They see it when they go to the grocery store. Food prices, incredibly high. Gas prices, incredibly high. Companies making money hands over fist. And I really applaud the courage of Shawn Fain and the workers at the UAW for standing up and saying, 'You know what? Enough is enough. We need an economy that works for everybody, not just the people on top.'"

Hayes continued, "I want to just show some of the demands: UAW, thirty-six percent wage increase over four years. One of the things I want to do — this is actually a key one and there's a little in the weeds, but it's important for people to recognize. There are sort of these tiers that have emerged in successive rounds of organizing where newer workers aren't working at the same tier as others. It's a way of kind of breaking up the solidarity of the union. It's something that Shawn Fain has been opposed to and the folks that elected him. So we'll see how that goes. I want to ask you this question on that context. We have seen all of this union activity at Starbucks and Amazon, the Teamsters, you know, and UPS, this, this. What — you said workers are waking up. But it strikes me that part of the issue here is that you've got tight labor markets and employees have more choice now than they did during that long period after the Great Recession where you had a lot of slack in the labor market, six, seven, eight percent unemployment. People were worried they were replaceable. This, it seems to me this environment has given workers more say and more power in their negotiations with ownership."

Sanders opined, "I think there is truth to that, Chris, but I think it really goes deeper. I think COVID, the pandemic, was a real emotional wake-up for the American people. You know, the rich people, the CEOs could stay at home and work in their fancy offices or in their homes behind their computers. Working people, people at the UAW, bus drivers, people working in warehouses, nurses, doctors, they had to go out to work. And tens and tens of thousands of them died. And meanwhile, during that whole pandemic, we saw an explosion of wealth increases for the people on top. So yeah, the tight labor market is a factor, Chris. But I really think that people are becoming sick and tired of the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that they're seeing today. No one thinks that three people on top should own more wealth than the bottom half of American society, that CEOs are making four hundred times more than their workers. That's not what this country is supposed to be about. That's what the UAW is telling the American people, and I think there's massive support for what they're trying to do."

Hayes added, "I wanna play this clip that got a lot of play. It sort of went viral. It's a sort of random clip because it's just an Australian property developer. But what he's articulating at this conference with other property developers is a view that I think some — a lot of people in management or ownership at least have about exactly this awakening that's happened post-COVID, right? That people have this sort of idea that like, they want to be treated with dignity. They want fairness. This is him saying we need unemployment to rise to knock the arrogance out of these workers. Take a listen."

READ MORE: Auto worker strike 'likely' due to 'insulting' offers from Big Three car companies: ex-labor secretary

Hayes rolled footage of Gurner Group Chief Executive Officer Tim Gurner stating that "we need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump forty, fifty percent in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around."

Repeating Gurner's remarks, Hayes queried, "We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around. What do you think of that?"

Sanders was characteristically blunt.

"I think it's disgusting," Sanders replied. "And it's, you know, hard to believe that you have that kind of mentality among the ruling class in the year 2023. You know, this is the richest country in the history of the world and yet we still have sixty percent — sixty percent of our people living paycheck to paycheck. People can't afford housing. People can't afford health care. They can't afford child care, can't afford to send their kids to college. And what these guys are saying, 'Hey, this is all great working classes and disarray. Let's have more unemployment. We can get richer and richer. Make them more and more desperate.' That is the kind of greed and arrogance that the UAW and unions all over this country are standing up to. I applaud them and I would hope that all of us as Americans stand with the UAW in their struggle."

Watch the full segment below or at this link.

MSNBC 09 14 2023 20 54

READ MORE: UAW president: Union is ready to strike selected plants at all Detroit automakers

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