FULL EPISODE: 10/24/21 Rep. Debbie Dingell & Washington Post Reporter Heather Long on U.S. worker shortage

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) about the job market, supply chain problems, and the economy for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, October 24, 2021. The program will also feature a conversation with Washington Post economics correspondent Heather Long.

“The pandemic has shined a light on a lot of problems that we’ve talked about for a long time,” said Rep. Dingell. “And we now have to take action. We’ve got to build back better. We’re working on a bill that’ll make some first steps, but for me, one of the most important things I’m focused on is bringing our supply chain back to this country.”

When asked about the economic impact of people not returning to the workforce, Dingell answered: “There are jobs that need to get filled. We need to see, as we look at the next reports, have people gone to different jobs? We do need to worry about revenue in, but on the other hand, I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, but the IRS is taking far more money this year because people are paying their fair share. People who weren’t paying their taxes are being found and paying more as well.”

Rep. Dingell interview excerpts are below.

Rep. Debbie Dingell Highlights

On how people are managing with unemployment going away

Greta Van Susteren

The extended federal benefits are gone … how are these people going to survive?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

This isn’t a one-stop … answer. Some are finding jobs that are paying more and they feel like the employers treat them with respect. Some are going back to school and getting skills or changing careers because they were never happy. And they view this as the opportunity to do so. Some are changing their lifestyles. I mean, I have talked to people who have real childcare issues. Childcare is a crisis in this country and they’re living on less. Some have moved in with parents.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

The parents may not be happy, but they’re combining households and doing things differently. So some are really struggling. Some are making more money. Some are going and getting jobs in grocery stores and restaurants … They’re working part-time, getting enough to get by and they don’t feel like they need to eat out or buy clothes the way that they did. So I think the pandemic in many ways has people looking at their lives, what matters in their life, reevaluating what their values are. And there are others, quite frankly, that are finding that they can make more money, that there are employers... willing to pay more and give people better benefits. They’re going to those jobs.

On the economic impact of people not returning to the workforce

Greta Van Susteren

Well, if there’s such a huge excess, and obviously I’m focusing on August with 4.3 million people quitting the workforce, that means that there’s going to be less revenue, less revenue going into the treasury, less revenue going into Social Security. I mean, that’s such a dramatic number that it’s not just your neighbor not working, it’s that it’s going to have an impact on the nation, I imagine.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

We have to look at it. Now, the unemployment rate is down. There are jobs that need to get filled. We need to see, as we look at the next reports, have people gone to different jobs? We do need to worry about revenue in, but on the other hand, I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, but the IRS is taking far more money this year because people are paying their fair share. People who weren’t paying their taxes are being found and paying more as well.

On the economic impact of workers going on strike

Greta Van Susteren

A lot of people are very unhappy. We’ve seen so many strikes this year. A lot of workers are on strike. So that doesn’t bode well for the economy.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Well, it could, or couldn’t. I think that workers are being heard. Employers have no choice but to hear what workers are saying, and many of them aren’t just striking for wages. They’re striking for better benefits. I think the workplace hasn’t been satisfying. They’re worried about their own personal health. Many people have cut retirement benefits, healthcare benefits. They’re looking at what their benefits are. And as I keep saying, we’re in a market where the workers are needed and they can and are asking for better quality and are asking for a better life.

Greta Van Susteren

Some of them are small businesses that are struggling and don’t have the employees or the employees are unhappy. The employees leave. The employees want a better lifestyle. I mean, there’s a big difference between a very robust corporation making a lot of money and a small business.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

So again, I think we’ve got to divide this into the John Deeres, the Kelloggs of the world, where they are larger corporations. CEOs have been paid well, and the workers are striking for a variety of issues. I think small businesses are struggling to find workers, but I also think that workers at small businesses understand that these workers don’t have unlimited resources. And they’re also, I’ve talked to many people, they want to be treated with respect. If their child gets sick, they need to have some flexibility. If they’ve got a spouse that’s having surgery or there’s something going on, they’re looking for flexibility at work. And for some of these small businesses, they are willing to hire part-time workers and even give them some benefits.

On strikes and supply chain problems

Greta Van Susteren

If there are substantial strikes in a community where maybe the only community employer, then the people are on strike. They’re not getting paid. So they’re not buying some of the things that they might otherwise be. I mean, it does have a ripple effect. We already have a supply chain impact right now.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Well, we are having a supply chain [ and this supply chain issue is very real in this country. And it’s again a variety of factors. We’ve offshored for too long. And supply chains are a national security issue, and we need to bring them back to this country. And I hope that that is one of the outcomes of what has happened, but I have not gone to either of the communities where there’s more than these two strikes or others, but when General Motors had strikes, a couple of years ago, I actually met and walked with those workers a number of times. While those times were tough for the moment for those employees, people chipped in, they made sure that they had support and their increased benefits, their increased wages benefits the community.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

So right now for that community, there may be some short-term pain, but in the end, I think everybody has benefited when the workers have been paid more, the communities have gotten more and they’re striking for real issues.

On rising healthcare costs

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

We’re competing in a global marketplace. People don’t agree with me, but we are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee its employees, its citizens, healthcare. And that is a very real cost factor, by the way, as an aside for employers.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Healthcare costs are going up and many employees’ salaries haven’t caught up with that. That’s one of the things that people are bargaining for and many people have lost their retirement benefits. People have been eliminating pensions and some of these benefit plans and people want a safe and secure retirement. These are very complex issues. And unions, all of us when unions have fought for wages and benefits in the past, the 40 hour work week, healthcare security benefits, and a safe working, quite frankly, teacher to student ratios, patient to nurse ratios have come out of negotiations that we all benefit from. So it’s not as simple as everybody wants to make it out to be.

On automation and jobs

Greta Van Susteren

We are seeing more and more automation pre-pandemic. Now it seems like we’re seeing a lot more of it. I mean, in my grocery store, you have the honor system. You can check out yourself. Is automation going to... I mean, is it having an adverse impact on workers in our economy?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Well, right now, it’s not because they don’t have enough people in the grocery store to check you out. I went into the grocery store this weekend. There was nobody at any checkout counter, and I had a big basket and I ended up using the checkout system yourself. But I do think that there are new jobs that are being created. I’m working very hard on this in the transportation sector. And even I’m sitting down and talking to people in the trucking industry. We, by the way again, are behind in this country on autonomous vehicles. Other countries are moving forward in that direction.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

China is far ahead of us. I don’t want to displace workers, but there’ll be new jobs that are created by it. But not addressing, not looking at these issues puts us competitively behind. So there will be new jobs. There’s a study that came out that showed that in electric vehicles, people were worried about that as well, that there will actually be an increase of jobs because of the new jobs that are being created.

On the hotel industry

Greta Van Susteren

What do we do about the hotel industry, which has really suffered during the pandemic?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

It’s complicated. It’s again, a bit of supply and demand. And again, some of it’s not simple. I talk to people that are still uncomfortable. I’m not the biggest traveler. I have no choice. I have to go back and forth between Michigan and Washington every week. But I don’t like to stay in hotels yet. I’m not taking vacations like some other people are. And when they do go to hotels, they don’t want people in their room. They want to maintain making sure that they’re cleaning their own room and that they’re not ... They’re still worried about the virus and the pandemic. But we do businesses that are willing to pay more to a worker, can attract a better worker.

On the big picture

Greta Van Susteren

Are we in trouble? I mean, when you think about, I mean, we’ve got workers who are unhappy, we’ve got a global economy that we’re having trouble competing with. We’ve got a supply chain problem. Things are being made overseas so the companies can’t compete. It does seem frankly a little grim to me.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Well, this pandemic has made me feel down some days, but you know what? I’m not going to give up. And neither are you. We believe in American ingenuity. And the fact of the matter is, the pandemic has shined a light on a lot of problems that we’ve talked about for a long time. And we now have to take action. We got to build back better. We’re working on a bill that’ll make some first steps, but for me, one of the most important things I’m focused on is bringing our supply chain back to this country.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

It’s a national security issue. Yes. It’s an economic issue. The chips, for instance, you and I’ve talked about it before and the auto industry has plants closed right now. We need to get those plants reopened and those workers back to work, but it’s a national security issue. We need to invest in it. We need to look at the policies that we are doing at the federal and the state level to make sure we can compete with other countries. I call it a wake-up call. Other countries have been doing it for a long time. America’s got to do it. We got to do it in a bipartisan way. It’s an American way that we need to address this.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

About “Full Court Press” and Gray Television:

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