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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Today is Day 4 of a historic union strike.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Three plants have shut down after contract talks broke down last week between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit Three automakers. Now, those manufacturers are Ford, GM and Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler. It's the first ever strike against all three at the same time.

FADEL: Tracy Samilton is Michigan Radio's transportation and energy reporter. And she's at the picket line at Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Mich. It's one of the three plants where workers have walked out and are now picketing. Good morning, Tracy.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Tracy, you're out there on the picket line. What are people saying?

SAMILTON: Well, we have a group of folks out there with their picket signs. They're at the end of the shift they signed up for picketing. And they get excited, of course, when they have somebody drive by - and you will probably hear that as I'm talking to you...

FADEL: Yeah.

SAMILTON: ...Beeping their horn in support of the union. And I think you're going to find the same thing here as, you know, other striking plants, they're resolute. They're fairly defiant at this point.

FADEL: So it's the fourth day of the strike. Break down what the key points of contention here, what these autoworkers want.

SAMILTON: Well, it's a long list. But I think, of course, No. 1 is wages.

FADEL: Yeah.

SAMILTON: The union has asked for 40% increase in wages over the four years of the next contract. And they've come down somewhat to the mid-30s, but they're still pretty far from the top counteroffer from Ford and General Motors, which is 20%. They also want the end of tiers to wages so that you just start right away with the same wage as anyone else who's been at the plant for a longer period of time. And they want the thousands of temp workers that these companies are using to be offered full-time work. Those temp workers are making $20 an hour tops in some of the plants, and it's really hard to make it these days on that.

FADEL: Yeah. Is there any progress on closing the gap between the union and the companies?

SAMILTON: Well, they did bargain, at least with General Motors and Ford, over the weekend. So we got a couple of really terse statements from the union on Saturday. We heard, quote, "we had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today" - and on Sunday, even more terse, we met with GM today. So there's not a whole lot that we can read into that.

FADEL: Yeah, I don't know what it says - we met with GM today. So really, we don't know much about what's going on there.

SAMILTON: (Laughter) Right, yeah.

FADEL: So there have been layoffs, though, right? How do those relate to the strike?

SAMILTON: Well, Ford immediately said they were laying off 600 workers at this plant here, Michigan Assembly Plant, in Wayne, Mich., because the union called off the paint shop workers and the final assembly workers. And Ford said, well, that means we can't do the rest of the work here at the plant. So those folks have been laid off. And General Motors says they are going to need to lay off folks at their Fairfax plant because the Wentzville plant, which is on strike, produces parts for Fairfax. So we're expecting that to happen, too.

FADEL: That's Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's transportation and energy reporter at the picket line at Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Mich. Thank you, Tracy.

SAMILTON: Yeah, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Global leaders are gathering in New York this week for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, climate change is very much on the agenda. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invited countries to a special climate summit. Then there are talks and events scheduled throughout the week and, of course, protests. Tens of thousands of people marched in Manhattan yesterday in one of the biggest climate protests we've seen since before the pandemic.

FADEL: Yeah, and NPR's Rachel Waldholz was there, and now she's here with us from the climate desk. Good morning, Rachel.

RACHEL WALDHOLZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: OK, so, Rachel, you were at that march yesterday. What were protesters demanding?

WALDHOLZ: Protesters at this march were focused on, basically, one big thing, and that was phasing out fossil fuels.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We need clean air, not another billionaire.

WALDHOLZ: I should note that this protest was very much directed at President Joe Biden. So protesters were demanding the president act more quickly to move the U.S. away from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil and gas, which are the biggest drivers of climate change. You know, and actually, Biden has taken some really significant steps on climate change.

So the Inflation Reduction Act, for instance, which passed last year, directed hundreds of billions of dollars to technologies like wind and solar and electric vehicles, all to cut U.S. emissions. But the organizers of yesterday's protest say that that is not enough. And they want Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel projects, basically to use his executive powers as aggressively as possible to curb the production and use of oil and gas in the U.S.

FADEL: And these protests and this week at the U.N. General Assembly is coming after a summer of extreme weather - heat waves, deadly wildfire in Maui, absolute devastation after flooding in Libya. Would phasing out fossil fuels more quickly help prevent summers like the one we just saw?

WALDHOLZ: Well, the short answer is that we have already locked in a certain amount of warming, so now it's about preventing things from getting much worse. So our current level of warming already makes many types of extreme weather more likely. Heat and drought can make wildfires more intense. A warmer atmosphere makes heavy rain more common, that contributes to flooding.

But scientists say if we want to avoid even more common extreme weather and other more catastrophic consequences of climate change, like really high sea level rise, we need to cut global emissions roughly in half by the end of this decade and reach, basically, zero emissions by 2050. So that means burning a lot less fossil fuels in the very short term. And right now, we are not currently on track to meet those targets. A recent U.N. report found that countries need to cut emissions much faster. And a lot depends on what happens in this decade.

FADEL: Yeah, and right now, global powerful people all in New York - climate is on the agenda this week. What should we expect from the Climate Ambition Summit the U.N. chief is hosting?

WALDHOLZ: It's a good question because this is a new event. And it's basically, the secretary-general is trying to spotlight exactly this issue. So he's asking countries, and also companies, to come to the summit with new plans to get on track, to slash emissions more quickly. In fact, he made it clear that countries are only welcome to participate in this summit if they come with credible new commitments to phase out fossil fuels, or for wealthy countries, new funding commitments to help developing countries cut emissions or adapt.

When he announced the summit, he was really clear on this. He actually said, quote, "there will be no room for backsliders, greenwashers, blame-shifters or repackaging of announcements from previous years," unquote. And apparently, that bar leaves a lot of countries out because so far, it's not entirely clear who is going to show up. Neither Biden nor Xi Jinping of China plan to be there. That's the world's two largest emitters. Though, Biden is sending his climate envoy, John Kerry. But ultimately, this is an effort by the U.N. to highlight countries that are taking more action and create some peer pressure for other countries to build some momentum in the lead up to big annual climate negotiations that are coming this winter in Dubai.

FADEL: That's NPR's Rachel Waldholz. Thanks so much, Rachel.

WALDHOLZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Hudson and "The Talk" are delaying their daytime talk shows over the Hollywood strikes.

MARTÍNEZ: The decisions come after several shows planned to resume production this week and after Drew Barrymore in particular got into some hot water.

FADEL: NPR's Mandalit del Barco joins us now from Los Angeles to discuss all this. Hi, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So this is a reversal from what Drew Barrymore and other talk shows announced last week in the midst of this strike. Was it backlash from strikers that led to the change?

DEL BARCO: Yeah, well, Drew Barrymore, you know, since her daytime talk show has become a daytime drama, that's what we're all talking about now. When the writers' strike first started, she publicly said she was in support, and she even turned down hosting the MTV Awards. Then last week, she announced the fourth season of her show was coming back. There were protests on social media, even by her own writers. And the National Book Awards rescinded its invitation for her to host its annual ceremony. A few days later, on Friday, Barrymore seemed to double down on the decision to resume. She posted a tearful video message on Instagram.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DREW BARRYMORE: I deeply apologize to writers. I deeply apologize to unions. I deeply apologize.

DEL BARCO: Barrymore said she was taking full responsibility for the decision to resume. But there was so much backlash to that video - people online calling her a scab - that Barrymore quickly deleted it. And yesterday, she posted again, saying she had listened to everyone and is no longer premiering her next season until the strike ends.

FADEL: I mean, but Drew Barrymore wasn't alone in this decision. We mentioned this kind of domino effect. Others were going to come back. Why was there so much attention to Drew Barrymore?

DEL BARCO: Well, for one thing, Drew Barrymore did make these very public announcements. And second, she's been famous almost her whole life. People still remember her as the little girl who was friends with E.T. in the 1982 film. She came from Hollywood royalty. Journalist Michael Schulman told me he was reminded of something he learned while writing his book, the "Oscar Wars." He says Drew's great-aunt, Ethel Barrymore, had been a theater actress and vice president of the union Actors' Equity. Schulman said, in 1929, when the union was trying to include movie stars, Ethel Barrymore single-handedly undermined that effort.

MICHAEL SCHULMAN: The union members were really angry at Ethel Barrymore. One of the actors said, if Ms. Barrymore could not say anything beneficial for us, the least she could have done would have been to keep still. It also came out that Ethel Barrymore had met with producers Irving Thalberg and Jack Warner in her dressing room, and that she had taken a role in a Warner Bros. film. So there was just all this outcry that Ethel had basically parachuted in, derailed this whole effort.

DEL BARCO: Schulman says that effort to unionize movie actors in Equity failed. And later that year, 45 of them banded together to create the Screen Actors Guild. That's the union that Drew Barrymore is a member of today and the one that is on strike right now.

FADEL: Yeah. And that strike has really ground Hollywood to a stop. The Writers Guild and major studios will resume negotiations this week. Any sign that anything will change?

DEL BARCO: By all accounts, the two sides are at an impasse. My sources tell me the strike might go on until January.

FADEL: Wow.

DEL BARCO: But meanwhile, Bill Maher is set to resume his talk show later this week. And another talk show, "The View," has been on the air all throughout.

FADEL: That's NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Los Angeles. Thanks, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.