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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Biden is going to Michigan to support the United Auto Workers union strike.
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
Workers at dozens more locations have gone off the job even though the union says it is getting somewhere with Ford.
SIMON: I'm Scott Simon.
RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe, and this is UP FIRST from NPR News.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Say it loud.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Union proud.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: As we get ready for that notification for us to get ready to walk out on the picket line.
RASCOE: But what will the autoworkers strike mean for consumers?
SIMON: House Republicans didn't agree on a temporary spending plan this week, and it increases the chances of government shutdown.
RASCOE: Will they be able to avoid it?
SIMON: And the Census Bureau wants to now know your sexual orientation.
RASCOE: It says the information can help fight discrimination.
SIMON: Please stay with us. We've got the news you need to start your weekend.
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SIMON: The United Auto Workers union says that it's making progress in talks with Ford.
RASCOE: But not so much with General Motors and Stellantis, the Chrysler parent company.
SIMON: So dozens more workers at those two locations are going on strike. NPR's Camila Domonoske joins us. Camila, thanks so much for being with us.
CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Happy to be here, Scott.
SIMON: And what's the union's big move here?
DOMONOSKE: Yeah, so a couple of things. One, they are splitting the big three up, like you said. Now there's Ford on the one hand and the other two on the other hand. With Ford, the union says they've secured some big wins at the table in terms of equalizing pay across different locations, job security provisions, raises that are tied to inflation. And so they say they're basically going easy on Ford now - still at strike on one plant but not adding any more. On the other two, the union is expanding the strike to all of the company's parts distribution centers. These are not plants that produce vehicles, but these are, basically, warehouses that ship out replacement parts to dealerships.
SIMON: And what do these strikes mean for drivers?
DOMONOSKE: Yeah. So the strikes that started last week didn't have a huge impact and wouldn't for a very long time. But the strikes that just started yesterday could affect people who need a repair on a car. I spoke to Pete DeVito. He's with a different union that represents workers at car dealerships. And he said it's pretty simple.
PETE DEVITO: The technicians can't fix the cars without the parts.
DOMONOSKE: Now, dealers knew this was coming. Many of them stockpiled parts. But once they run through whatever they have locally, people might have to wait longer for a repair. And these parts that get shipped out from these distribution centers - they're tremendously profitable for companies, like people might have suspected if they looked at the price tag for some OEM parts, right? Hugely profitable - so consumers are basically collateral damage here as the union is trying to hit the car companies right in the pocketbook.
SIMON: What can the companies do about this?
DOMONOSKE: Yeah. We know that the automakers knew this was a possibility, and they were getting ready for this. And these distribution centers - you know, they aren't like an assembly line where it's basically impossible to get it back up and running if all your workers go out. In the 2019 UAW strike against General Motors, there were some salaried workers who were doing some work in these warehouses. I asked DeVito if he thinks the companies could avoid some snarls with their parts by basically doing that again - sending white-collared workers to run the warehouses. And he said this.
DEVITO: Do you remember when the NFL went on strike many years ago, and they brought in the replacement players?
DOMONOSKE: Full disclosure, Scott, I did not remember this.
SIMON: I - yes, I certainly remember it. And let's just say, with all respect, the games were not very good.
DOMONOSKE: Yeah. DeVito put it like this.
DEVITO: Nobody watched. In this case, if you send in a team of accountants, nobody's going to get their parts.
DOMONOSKE: So he's not optimistic about that backup strategy. We'll just have to see. I asked the companies. General Motors said they have contingency plans that they are deciding whether to implement. They wouldn't discuss any further. Stellantis declined to comment.
SIMON: What's ahead, Camila?
DOMONOSKE: Well, you mentioned that President Biden is heading to Michigan to join the picket line, which is very unusual - as I understand it, possibly unprecedented - to have a sitting president out on the line. The car companies are really frustrated with the union. Stellantis says they made a competitive offer and haven't heard back at all. GM has called the union's demands untenable. Even Ford, the company where the union said they're making real progress - Ford says there are significant gaps between the company and the union. So talks are continuing, but definitely a possibility that more strikes will come, the strikes will expand again, and it's super hard to predict exactly what that might look like.
SIMON: Camila Domonoske. Thanks so much.
DOMONOSKE: Thanks, Scott.
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SIMON: A looming government shutdown now seems more possible after a bumpy week on Capitol Hill.
RASCOE: House Republicans couldn't agree on a temporary spending plan and then went home for the weekend.
SIMON: But when they do return next week, they'll have just a few days to try to figure out if they can avoid a shutdown. NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us. Claudia, thanks so much for being with us.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.
SIMON: This wasn't a bipartisan divide. This is House Republicans who couldn't reach agreement among themselves, right? Where are they stuck?
GRISALES: Right, in a number of places. They had a lot of arguments over the past week about trying to put forward the most conservative proposal possible to keep the government open just temporarily, just a few more weeks past this approaching deadline. Yet they were breaking down over top-line numbers, over whether to provide additional aid for Ukraine or for public disasters anywhere ranging from Hawaii to Vermont.
They did start off the week on a positive note. There was lots of optimism for a bill that was being pushed by House Republican leaders. It was put together by two factions in the House - the Main Street Caucus, which are more moderate Republicans, and the House Freedom Caucus members there who are more along the hard-liners' direction. But yet too many members in the party were opposed. It was clear by Thursday they were breaking down and could not agree on anything. And we can't forget that Republicans hold a very slim majority in the House, and they cannot lose much support.
SIMON: Republicans do keep talking about passing all 12 of the regular spending bills, but is there enough time even for that?
GRISALES: No. And a House Republican-led committee met yesterday to try and hammer out these annual spending bills, but they won't be ready until many, many weeks from now - maybe months. And so that's going to miss that October 1 deadline, when we could see a shutdown set in if not even a temporary funding bill is passed by then. So those bills are partisan as well as this stopgap funding bill that was proposed earlier this week. And so they are dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate.
SIMON: Claudia, what's this mean for the coming week?
GRISALES: Well, it's a very high-stakes week. Basically, there are some folks who are hoping for some sort of a Hail Mary move that could get some sort of plan through both the House and the Senate. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has previously promised to his members at the beginning of this year that he would give them 72 hours - that's three days - in what's left in the remainder of this coming week to hammer out a deal for a temporary funding bill, to review a bill before they vote. And this is as McCarthy is facing round three of a showdown with his own members. The first was when he took the speaker's gavel. That was a big fight with his own - members of his own conference. And then the second was a debt-limit fight, which really weakened his position significantly.
SIMON: And it raises the question, does he have much of a future?
GRISALES: He is facing more vocal calls to be ousted. It's possible we could see more momentum there from his opponents for him to step down. But this is all tied to the politics of a shutdown as well.
SIMON: Can the Senate try and speed things up to avoid a government shutdown?
GRISALES: They could try to send over their own plan to the House, but House Republican leaders would have to reassess their position on trying to push a partisan-only bill and reconsider a bipartisan path instead. But that's a very tall order.
SIMON: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thanks so much for being with us.
GRISALES: Thank you for having me.
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RASCOE: What is your current gender, and does gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight or something else represent your identity?
SIMON: The Census Bureau wants to know your answers next year. It's looking for better statistics about LGBTQ+ people.
RASCOE: They say the info could be used to fight discrimination. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has been tracking these efforts and joins us now. Welcome to the program.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Thank you, Ayesha.
RASCOE: So where might people start seeing these questions?
WANG: We're talking about experimental forms for the American Community Survey. That's an annual survey that many households around the country have received. And it's not the once-a-decade census, but it is a major survey. And adding these questions would change a really important set of government statistics. And if the White House approves this test, about a half million households will be asked to participate.
RASCOE: And everyone living in those households would be asked about their sexual orientation and gender identity?
WANG: No. Only some of these households would see these test questions, and they would be directed to people age 15 and older. You know, usually it's one person in a household that fills out the survey for everyone in the home. And that's actually a big focus of this experiment, how people would answer the sexual orientation and gender identity questions on behalf of any others in their household.
RASCOE: And how exactly might this information about sexual orientation and gender identity - how would that help protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination?
WANG: Well, multiple federal agencies have asked the Census Bureau to produce more statistics about sexual orientation and gender identity. You know, the Justice Department, for example, says it needs this data to better enforce laws like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. There are also a lot of advocates for LGBTQ+ people who've been pushing for this kind of data. I talked to Caroline Medina, the policy director for the Whitman-Walker Institute, which focuses on better health care for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV. And here's what they told me.
CAROLINE MEDINA: In conversations with policymakers, we are often asked for data on LGBTQI folks, how many folks are accessing a particular program, for example. And often, it's really hard to give that answer because of the patchwork of data collection that exists right now.
WANG: You know, one way to think about this is the way the U.S. works, if you're not counted in official statistics, it's really difficult to get resources and other support from the government.
RASCOE: This is happening at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric is on the rise from right-wing politicians and groups. I would imagine that might make the Census Bureau's plans for this test a bit more complicated.
WANG: Yes. You know, it's been a long road for advocates for more government statistics about LGBTQ+ people to get to this point. You know, a few years ago, I reported on how the Trump administration stopped earlier efforts because officials didn't want questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to be asked. And this current political climate does raise questions about how this data could be misused. You know, I should point out, of course, there are federal laws that ban the Census Bureau from publishing people's private information. And the Biden administration has emphasized that federal surveys should allow people to choose whether they share their sexual orientation and gender identity with the government. You know, there's always this tension when you're talking about government statistics. There's a value in being seen. But it comes with the risk that at some point in the future, policies around confidentiality may change or may not be followed.
RASCOE: That's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang. Hansi, thank you so much.
WANG: You're very welcome.
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SIMON: And that's UP FIRST for Saturday, September 23, 2023. I'm Scott Simon.
RASCOE: And I'm Ayesha Rascoe. Tomorrow on the Sunday Story, my conversation with NPR's Daniel Estrin about his investigation into what really happened the night the Pentagon took out the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
SIMON: The Saturday version of the podcast was produced by Danny Hensel and Fernando Naro.
RASCOE: Our editors are Rafael Nam, Benjamin Swasey, Kelsey Snell, Hadeel Al-Shalchi and Melissa Gray. Our director is Michael Radcliffe, with engineering support from Hannah Gluvna.
SIMON: Evie Stone is our senior supervising editor. Sarah Lucy Oliver is our executive producer, and Jim Kane is our deputy managing editor.
RASCOE: And thanks to all those people who work tirelessly, fueled by carbs, candy and lots of caffeine as they lend their skills and talents to Weekend Edition as well.
SIMON: You can hear their work on something called the radio every Saturday and Sunday morning. Find your NPR station at stations.npr.org.
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