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Unions Brace for Crippling Blow; Senator Manchin No Fan of MTV's "Buck Wild"; Consumers Wary of Fiscal Cliff; College Football's Most Inspirational

Aired December 10, 2012 - 10:30   ET



TED ROWLANDS, CNN ANCHOR: And checking our "Top Stories".

Another day, another bizarre twist in the case of American tech mogul, John McAfee; after weeks of living in hiding, he spoke to reporters from an immigration detention center in Guatemala City. He's fighting deportation to Belize where authorities want to question him about the death of a neighbor. McAfee says he now wants to return to the U.S.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returns to Cuba to undergo another cancer operation. Chavez left in the middle of the night just a day after telling his country his cancer had returned. This will be Chavez'a fourth surgery since being diagnosed with cancer last year.

And more than 100 same-sex couples have officially married in Washington State. Marriage licenses became available Thursday, but because of a three-day waiting period, the first weddings didn't take place until Sunday. Couples there are hoping the Supreme Court will issue favorable rulings on same-sex marriage when it hears the arguments on the matter next year.

Tomorrow morning Michigan lawmakers are expected to pass sweeping right to work legislation that will allow people to opt out of joining unions or pay union dues. It could be a death knell for organized labor in the state.

Joining us now from Lansing is Andy Potter, vice president of Michigan's Corrections Organization. Thanks for joining us Andy. Although you're a Republican, you're not up in favor of what is happening here in your state. Why?

ANDY POTTER, SEIU REPUBLICAN ADVISORY CHARIMAN: I am not in favor of it. I think it's a way to weaken the unions. Weaken the -- the representation that the workers in Michigan are going to receive and it's a way to do certain things where we won't be able to hold anyone accountable in the state for what happens to the working class.

ROWLANDS: Now, you say you are a Republican. Republicans typically are anti-labor or anti labor unions for a number reasons. One of those reasons is that unions bring out the vote for their Democratic opponents. How do you marry the fact that you are Republican and yet you are pro union? POTTER: Well, I'm pro labor and I am a Republican. I voted for Republicans my whole life. We look at the candidates that best represent the labor issues and we support them. We support different candidates. It doesn't always have to be a Democrat that we support. We support Republicans as well.

ROWLANDS: This seems to be a done deal. Is there anything you think you can do to stop this from happening?

POTTER: All we can do is make a plea to the governor not to sign this legislation if it gets to his desk and make it well-known around the nation that this, these so-called bills that are for the rights of the employee are -- are nothing but a sham. It's a smoke and mirror attempt to take away the representation that these members in these hard working class citizens are going to receive.

So we just want to get that message out and ask the governor to reconsider his position on this. He was for a long time touting how it's divisive and that Michiganders do not want this kinds of legislation, I think the polls have shown that. They have turned their talking points around. Now, he's changed his position and we're just asking him not to -- not o sign the legislation.

ROWLANDS: Were you shocked that indeed he did change his mind because of course there was a ballot initiative on the ballot in Michigan that would have made collective bargaining a right and he sort of said in his opposition to that that we don't need to get into that and that I'm not going to push any sort of right to work laws down in the future and right after the election, he's done an about face.

Was that angering for you and others?

POTTER: It was extremely surprising to me and other fellow Republicans to find him switch his position so -- so quickly. We feel that it's being backed by very, very rich CEOs and we feel that it's disingenuous of him. We do not feel that it's right for Michigan, it is divisive using his words. And we all feel a lot of Republicans I can speak for that talk to me feel that -- that this is a just an attempt to weaken the labor force and we're -- and we're completely against it.

ROWLANDS: All right. Andy Potter, thank you. After the break, we'll get the other side.

Vince Vernuccio from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy -- he'll tell us why he thinks right to work is a good thing for Michigan. Stay with us.


ROWLANDS: Hey, welcome back. We have been discussing a sea change that could alter the face of organized labor in Michigan. This time tomorrow legislation is expected to be approved that might allow workers to avoid union membership in unionized shops.

Vinnie Vernuccio is joining us. Vince likes to go by Vinnie though Vernuccio. You're from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and, boy, this really caught a lot of people by surprise. Although this had been talked about for years in Michigan, the fact that the governor had sort of intimated that this wasn't something he was pushing, and now people think he did an about face.

From your standpoint in Michigan, someone who is for this, do you think that the governor was forthright with voters there?

VINCENT VERNUCCIO, DIRECTOR OF LABOR AT MACKINAC CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY: Well, actually the governor through his entire tenure has said that if rights of work came to his desk, he would sign it. The difference is that he said it wasn't an honest agenda until about last when he said it was.

And, you know, honestly I think it was a big reaction to what happened in Indiana where that state gave workers the freedom to choose earlier this year. And Michigan said, hey, right to work states have bigger population growth. They have larger wage growth. They're more attractive for business. They treat workers better and we have to respond because we want those job creators here in Michigan.

ROWLANDS: Do they treat workers better? I mean, hasn't it been shown that wages do go down?

VERNUCCIO: No. Actually, there is more wage growth in right to work states than there is in a non right to work state counterpart. In fact, if you factor in cost of living, workers are actually making more and have more disposable income in right to work states than they do in their non right to work states counterparts.

ROWLANDS: How much of this is political? Because clearly Republicans would love it if every union were immediately evaporated tomorrow because unions bring voters to Democratic candidates. How much of this is political?

VERNUCCIO: Well, you have to remember right to work is not anti- union; right to work simply gives workers the freedom to choose whether or not to pay a union.


ROWLANDS: Right, but it destabilizes unions. It has the potential of destabilizing unions.

VERNUCCIO: It actually makes unions more accountable and makes them more responsive to the members because now the unions can't take them for granted. Remember, right to work doesn't affect collective bargaining in any other way except for taking away the union's ability to fire a worker for not paying them. Those workers can still bargain over wages, hours and working conditions.

ROWLANDS: Do you think there's going to be a legal challenge here if the governor signs this? Apparently, he's going to sign it. Do you foresee a legal challenge here?

VERNUCCIO: I think big labor is going to throw the kitchen sink at this bill. They're going to try legal changes. Probably they're also are going to try to get this on the ballot in two years, so we're going to have a two-year conversation here in Michigan about whether freedom of choice for workers is right for Michigan. And it's not going anywhere and look forward to November 2014, because that's when this is going to be back.

ROWLANDS: All right. We will see how it all plays out there in Michigan. Vinnie Vernuccio, thank you, sir. I appreciate it and we will be right back.

VERNUCCIO: Ted, thanks for having me on.


ROWLANDS: So MTV is stirring up a little controversy again. They have a new reality show called "Buck Wild" based in West Virginia, and the state's governor is not too happy about it.

Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles to tell us more. Good morning, Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Ted. You know yes, this show, "Buck Wild", it's drawing the ire of a lot of people. Senator Joe Manchin, he's a Democrat from West Virginia, he's one of them. He says this show plays into ugly stereotypes about the people of his state and he's asking MTV to actually cancel this series.

Now this seems to be MTV's effort to fill the void of "Jersey Shore", which has ended after six seasons. But this show "Buck Wild" follows a group of West Virginians in the Appalachians who, according to the official Web site, throw dump truck pool parties and build human slingshots. Fun.

Now, Senator Manchin was on the "Today" show this morning sounding off about "Buck Wild." Listen to this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, the only thing I would ask the producers and all of the backers and the investors of this show, is this the way you want your town and your home state, is this how you'd want your children to act? I would hope someone had a shred of decency saying listen, what are we promoting and we're fighting to fix this country to turn it over to the next generation. West Virginians, we've got some of the greatest young adults, young kids who've accomplished an awful lot. Why can't they show balance?


TURNER: Good point. MTV is not commenting on Manchin's request for cancellation. I like that, why can't they can't show balance. Basically, Ted, "Buck Wild" debuts next month and if you've seen the trailers for it, it's interesting. Let's just leave it at that.

ROWLANDS: All right. Nischelle, thank you. For more entertainment headlines, watch "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," 11:00 Eastern on HLN.

ROWLANDS: Well, just 22 days, that's all the time lawmakers have left to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff or else automatic spending cuts and tax hikes will kick in and with the fiscal cliff looming. Are consumers feeling at all concerned?

Our business correspondent, Christine Romans joins us now from New York with that. Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ted. First, let me tell you what's going right in the economy for consumers because there's a whole host of things that have been turning in their direction. The job markets, 7.7 percent unemployment, the lowest in four years. You've got the housing market showing signs of recovery. Rising home values in much of the country.

Gas prices, did you notice? They're down 46 cents over the past couple of months. They're expected to keep going lower into the end of the year. And the stock market -- the Dow is up 20 points now, the Dow is above 13,000 and the S&P 500 is up 12 percent so far this year. So, what could go wrong?

Fiscal cliff -- this is something that is weighing on consumer sentiment and we're starting to see it in the weekly, in the month indicators. And we're starting to see in the polling, the consumers are saying of all those other things that are going well, they're still very concerned about the fiscal cliff.

Look at this CNN/ORC poll -- 39 percent said it would affect its sum. Only 6 percent of those that we surveyed said it wouldn't affect them at all.

Here's what they're worried about. They don't know what the tax rates are going to be. They don't seem to have much space in the Congress to fix it at any time except the 11th hour and maybe a week into the New Year.

And there's this payroll tax holiday that most people have been enjoying now for well over a year. Almost two years now. It's about $20 a week, $40 a paycheck for somebody who earns say $50,000, but they're getting extra in their paycheck because their payroll tax deduction has been changed a little. They're getting a little bit of a break on that.

If that goes away, right away people are going to have less money in their paycheck. I've been hearing from a lot of people who are studying the retailers and the like and they're very concerned, heading into the end of the year.

You know, a lot of people buy their holiday presents based on what they think their refund will be from their taxes and no one is really certain what is going on in terms of taxes at the end of the year. That's weighing on settlement now.

ROWLANDS: Yes, absolutely. All right. Christine Romans for us this morning in New York. Thank you, Christine. ROMANS: You're welcome.

ROWLANDS: Well, he is college football's most inspirational figure and Nate Boyer's story is much different than most young men who battle on the gridiron. We'll have it coming up.


ROWLANDS: Checking top stories, it looks like a stomach virus is delaying an overseas trip for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton will now leave tomorrow for Morocco. She was in Ireland last week. This trip will include a meeting with a group aimed at supporting Syria's rebel opposition to the government.

In South Africa, former president Nelson Mandela is facing a third day of medical tests in the hospital. The 94-year-old has suffered health problems in recent years. The nation's health president says Mandela is doing well, but offered no details.

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to the European Union. The three presidents of the EU's main bodies accepted the prestigious award this morning at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. This year's choice has not been without controversy. Three former Nobel Laureates wrote a letter of protest saying the union doesn't qualify as a peacemaker.

Well, you don't hear about many 31-year-old college football players, but then again, most college athletes don't have an impressive military career either. That is just part of what makes Nate Boyer so incredible. The long snapper at the University of Texas carries the American flag before every home game. He is a six-year veteran of the army, serving in the Green Berets, earning a bronze star.

But that's not it all of it. Boyer also has helped refugees in camps in Darfur and he's coached autistic kids. Now this sophomore walk-on has been named college football's Most Inspirational Figure. Not bad for a guy that never played football before college.

Nate Boyer joins us now from Austin, Texas live. First of all, Nate, congratulations on the award -- well-deserved. It's a pleasure to talk to you. What was your motivation to start playing football at your tender young age of 33?

NATE BOYER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS FOOTBALL PLAYER: Well, it was something that I always wanted to do growing up. I played a lot of other sports as a kid and I just never got a chance to play football and I really wanted to do it. And then while I was serving, I was on a rotation overseas and, you know, I knew my enlistment was coming up and I knew I wanted to go back to school, so I thought why not try to fulfill that dream? So I just started working towards that and it worked out.

ROWLANDS: You joined the military when you were 20 years old, following the September 11th attacks. In fact, I guess your nicknames include Army and America?

BOYER: Among others. ROWLANDS: What is it like to be playing football with these kids? I mean, let's face it. Some of your teammates are 18 years old who really don't have a care in the world and for a guy with your background and inherent maturity, is it difficult to click with your teammates?

BOYERS: First of all, I don't know how mature I really am, but I don't know. I think once you reach about 19, you mature in some ways, but I think a lot of you stays young at heart and I don't have a problem clicking at all. I mean those guys, they took me right in. I'm very fortunate to have such great teammates. I think at a school like UT with the football program being the way it is that they're able to recruit you know, whoever they want, really, and they take into account you know, guys' personalities and, you know, the type of people there are in the community as well as being great athletes. There's pretty mature kids for the age they are. I hang out with them. I live with them and I don't feel that much of an age difference, honestly.

ROWLANDS: Your story is inspirational on a lot of levels. One of them is the fact that you are a vet that has come back and really embraced the time following your service, going back to college, excelling. What's your message to other vets who may be having trouble assimilating after they have done their service and have come back?

BOYER: I mean there's just -- there's so many opportunities out there for veterans, you know. You just got to look into them and seek them out. I was real fortunate. I hadn't, you know, I didn't sustain any big injuries and you know, I don't have PTSD and stuff like that, so there's a lot of guys that have a tougher go than I have. I've been really lucky.

But you know, with that being said, still, there's so many programs and opportunities out there. Our country really supports its military for the most part and you know, I love that. It's a great thing. And so, you know, everything's out there.

And you know, with what you know, we've been able to accomplish and if you've gone overseas and you understand that when you have difficulty, you know from your experience what it takes to get you know, a job done. Obstacles kind of fall to the wayside and they don't seem as difficult after going through something like that. You have that in your back pocket and you've just got to take advantage of it and go for it. Can't be worried about making mistakes or --


BOYER: Failing. I've failed millions of times. I'm going to keep failing.

ROWLANDS: Well, you didn't fail this time -- voted most inspirational and well deserving. Nate Boyer, congratulations and enjoy the rest of your sophomore year in college.

BOYER: I will. Thanks. ROWLANDS: We appreciate your time. Thanks, Nate.

We will be right back. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the saying goes, food is the best medicine. So here with a few tips to boost your memory. First, eat more salmon, walnuts and ground flaxseed. These contain healthy omega fatty acids that boost memory by making your arteries more supple and preventing inflammation especially in those blood vessels that lead to and from the brain.

And don't forget your colorful vegetables and fruits like blueberries and blue potatoes. They contain antioxidants like anthocyanin that give the food their blue color, but they help to boost memory, too.


ROWLAND: I'm Ted Rowlands. Thanks for joining us today.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield -- Ashleigh.