Congress Votes On Aid, Auto Workers Vote On Unionizing, New Melatonin Guidelines : Up First Congress is expected to vote Saturday on aid for U.S. allies over the objections of some Republicans. Volkswagen workers at a Tennessee plant have voted overwhelmingly to join the United Auto Workers. There are new guidelines to safeguard melatonin overuse by children.

Congress Votes On Aid, Auto Workers Vote On Unionizing, New Melatonin Guidelines

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MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: He's serving Ukraine first and America last.

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Vocal critics in his own party didn't want him to do it, but today, Speaker Mike Johnson is letting the House vote on aid to Ukraine.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Will it cost him his gavel?

RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe.

SIMON: And I'm Scott Simon. And this is UP FIRST from NPR News.

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SIMON: We expect votes on assistance to U.S. allies this afternoon, over the objections of Republicans, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who's already teed up a measure to oust the speaker. What to watch? Also...

RASCOE: More voting. VW workers in Chattanooga have been deciding over the last three days whether to join the UAW. They've said no twice over the last decade. We have the latest results.

SIMON: And important news for parents of sleepless children, so please stay with us. We have the news you need to start your weekend.

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RASCOE: It's been another topsy-turvy week in the Republican-led House of Representatives, and it's not over yet. The House is voting today on aid for Ukraine as part of a larger package to support U.S. allies, and it could cost speaker Mike Johnson.

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MIKE JOHNSON: We have to do the right thing, and I'm going to allow an opportunity for every single member of the House to vote their conscience and their will on this. I think that's the way this institution is supposed to work, and I'm willing to take personal risk for that because we have to do the right thing, and history will judge us.

SIMON: The personal risk Mr. Johnson is referring to there is his job, since enough of his fellow Republicans have signed on to an effort that could remove him from the speakership. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us. Claudia, thanks so much for being with us.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Mr. Johnson was once opposed to giving more aid to Ukraine. What changed?

GRISALES: A lot. Yes, Johnson was opposed, without assurances of new U.S. border policy changes being attached to this legislation. It was that reason he refused to take up a Senate bipartisan bill because it did not have those changes, but we've since learned that Johnson changed his position after intelligence briefings and extensive prayer. Here he is earlier this week, talking about the risks if Ukraine is defeated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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JOHNSON: I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Balkans next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies.

GRISALES: He also quoted President John Quincy Adams, saying, quote, "Duty is ours. Results are God's." So now Johnson is facing threats from members of his own party to resign or asking him to resign or these threats that he could be forced out.

SIMON: Where's that threat stand now?

GRISALES: Well, Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene started the initial steps for a so-called motion to vacate, and she could take additional steps to force a vote because of this Ukraine aid getting on the floor. This has been a red line for her. Also, she's had two more Republicans join her to co-sponsor that effort, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona. This could be the votes she needs to force him out of office, but again, she has not forced this vote yet, and it is possible Democrats step in to save Johnson.

SIMON: And Democrats played an enormous role in moving this package of foreign aid bills to the floor in the first place, didn't they?

GRISALES: Yes, exactly. And this aid also includes aid to Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific, and they would not be getting votes today if Democrats had not stepped in. Here's Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries talking to reporters yesterday.

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HAKEEM JEFFRIES: House Democrats have once again cleared the way for legislation that is important to the American people to be processed and considered on the House floor.

GRISALES: And what he's referring to are some rare moves we saw this week, with Democrats helping get a procedural rule passed to allow votes on this bill today, and Jeffries defended Johnson's role as well, saying that he played a bipartisan role to get this done.

SIMON: Have Democrats signaled that they might step in to save Speaker Johnson?

GRISALES: Publicly, no, but they have signaled they might. This is very different from what we saw when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted. Democrats railed against McCarthy, and that is not the case here. In fact, Jeffries earlier this year said it was possible Democrats would protect Johnson if he put foreign aid on the floor, and he was asked about this again yesterday and said the caucus would have to have a discussion, but he did note this aid needed to pass in totality first.

SIMON: And the Senate's still up there, aren't they?

GRISALES: Exactly. They reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, ahead of a critical deadline, and they're hoping to work through the weekend to take up these foreign aid bills, assuming the House passes them.

SIMON: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Claudia, thanks so much for being with us.

GRISALES: Thank you.

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RASCOE: Now, that union vote in Tennessee. In a historic win for the United Auto Workers, Volkswagen workers at a plant in Chattanooga have voted overwhelmingly to join the union.

SIMON: It's part of a larger push that the UAW is making across the South. Stephan Bisaha of the Gulf States Newsroom spent the night at an election results watch party with workers. He joins us now from Chattanooga. Stephan, thanks for being with us.

STEPHAN BISAHA, BYLINE: Yeah, thanks for having me.

SIMON: Must have been a happy mood at the party.

BISAHA: Yeah, it really leaned into the party side of election watch party. From the very beginning, there was a lot of excitement in the air, along with some tension and anxiety over how it was going to go. That quickly broke when the ballot counting started coming in Friday night 'cause the union, they grabbed on to a quick lead and held on to it by a wide margin the whole time. Robert Crump's been at Volkswagen for 12 years, and he voted for the union in two previous elections that both failed.

So how does it feel to finally be a union member?

ROBERT CRUMP: A sense of security, a sense of relief - yeah, it feels really, really good, more of a surreal moment.

BISAHA: By the end of the night, about 73% of the votes were in favor of the union.

SIMON: What has Volkswagen's reaction been?

BISAHA: That was one of the big questions last night. Would Volkswagen fight this union election, this win? This is the only Volkswagen plant in the world without some form of worker representation, so working with unions is the norm, but at the same time, they've pushed back at past attempts to unionize this facility. This time around, workers say Volkswagen has been pretty neutral, and shortly after the count ended, workers were all opening up their phones to read this email from Volkswagen noting that yes, workers had voted to unionize and thanking workers for their vote, so still seemingly pretty neutral, but the real test is going to be seeing how negotiations go for the first contract.

SIMON: And what's next for the UAW beyond this plant there in Chattanooga?

BISAHA: Well, UAW's goal is recruiting nonunionized workers, mostly in the South, and this win really builds a ton of momentum for that. And importantly, it's proof that it's possible to even do this in the South. Here's UAW President Shawn Fain at the watch party.

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SHAWN FAIN: They said Southern workers aren't ready for it.

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FAIN: They said nonunion autoworkers didn't have it in them.

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FAIN: But you all said, watch this.

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BISAHA: Next month, there's going to be another union vote at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, and there's lots of similarities to this plant. Both are large, with several thousand workers, and workers I talked to at Mercedes are also pretty fired up. The UAW said well more than a majority of workers at Mercedes signed union cards and used similar language when describing this Volkswagen plant, where, again, they won.

SIMON: How are state and local leaders reacting?

BISAHA: We haven't heard much yet, but earlier this week, we had six Southern governors kind of send out this joint statement speaking out against the union and really sending out this warning message saying that they fear unionizing could cost the South jobs.

SIMON: Gulf State Newsroom senior reporter Stephan Bisaha. Stephan, thanks so much for being with us.

BISAHA: Thank you, Scott.

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SIMON: Finally today, new guidelines for companies that make melatonin. They call for child-deterrent packaging and other safety measures.

RASCOE: Melatonin is a hormone that is widely used as a sleep aid, including by children, and in recent years, nearly 11,000 kids have visited the emergency room after taking it. Here to tell us more is NPR's Maria Godoy. Hi, Maria.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Hi, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So these guidelines are coming from the dietary supplement industry itself. Like, why are they acting now?

GODOY: Yeah. So the guidelines come from the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and that's the leading industry trade group for dietary supplement makers. Steve Mister is the group's CEO, and he told me they've had a task force working on this for about a year. And there are really two issues here. One is that the number of really young kids accidentally taking melatonin has skyrocketed in recent years. Mister says this has coincided with an increased sales.

STEVE MISTER: This is an issue that needs to be dealt with. There's more melatonin out there, and more kids seem to be getting into it.

GODOY: And then the other issue is that more and more kids are taking melatonin on purpose as a sleep aid. A recent study found nearly 1 in 5 school-age kids and adolescents are now using it on a regular basis. The guidelines address both of these issues.

RASCOE: And when we say child-deterrent packaging and other safety measures, like, what does that actually mean?

GODOY: So, first of all, they call for packaging that's harder for young kids to open. And it's specifically for melatonin that's sold in flavored form, so gummies and chewables that might be appealing to kids, especially little ones who might think it's candy or even vitamins. And the guidelines also call for labels that clearly warn that melatonin can make you drowsy and should only be used with adult supervision and kept out of the reach of children. And it's only meant for occasional use, which is a point a lot of pediatricians have been making.

RASCOE: So what is the concern about using melatonin regularly in kids?

GODOY: Well, so for one thing, there's just not a lot of research on melatonin use in children, especially not long-term and especially with the youngest kids. So there really is no guidelines for dosing, like when to give it or how much. It's possible for kids to take too much, which can lead to severe headaches, stomach pains, dizziness and extreme drowsiness. There's also concerns about how much melatonin is in a given supplement. Some studies have found that some supplements contained much more melatonin than what was listed on the label, although the industry disputes those findings.

RASCOE: Well, given these concerns, what should parents do if they can't get their kids to sleep? Should they not use melatonin at all?

GODOY: So every pediatrician I've talked to recommends focusing on sleep hygiene first, so turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime, using blackout shades and noise-canceling machines or earplugs, that kind of thing. Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, with Northwestern University and Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, says parents should definitely talk to their kids' pediatricians before giving them melatonin, especially if they're considering using it in the youngest kids, like preschoolers, because again, it's easy to give them too much. And even in older kids, she says melatonin use should be just very occasional.

NIA HEARD-GARRIS: You tell me that you're using it three times a week, and I'm like, that's more that I want you to be using it. What's going on? If it's once a year, you know, once every, like, four or five months, maybe that's less of a red flag.

GODOY: And if you are going to use it, look for the lowest dose possible. Don't give it for more than three days at a time. And look for a product that is tested by a third party like NSF or U.S. Pharmacopeia, so that you've got some guarantee of what's in it.

RASCOE: NPR's Maria Godoy. Thanks so much, Maria.

GODOY: My pleasure.

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SIMON: And that's UP FIRST for Saturday, April 20, 2024. I'm Scott Simon.

RASCOE: And I'm Ayesha Rascoe.

SIMON: Michael Radcliffe produced today's podcast, with help from Danny Hensel and Gabe O'Connor. It was directed by Andrew Craig.

RASCOE: And Ed McNulty edited, along with Dana Farrington, Don Clyde, Jane Greenhalgh and Hadeel Al-Shalchi.

SIMON: Our technical director is Hannah Gluvna, with engineering support from Carleigh Strange, Neisha Heinis and Joby Tanseco.

RASCOE: Evie Stone is our senior supervising editor. Sarah Oliver is our executive producer. Jim Kane is our deputy managing editor.

SIMON: Tomorrow on UP FIRST, Off The Mark, NPR's look at hundreds of historical markers across the nation and what they tell us about ourselves.

RASCOE: And there's more news and perspectives just like that on your radio. Find your NPR stations at stations.npr.org. Listen to us. We'll be out here on the...

SIMON: Yeah. I mean, that's what we do for a living.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

SIMON: You know? We're here for you.

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