Not Every Union Is Buying Into the Lies about Medicare for All

Photo: Kevin Wolf (AP)

Several presidential candidates have cast Medicare for All as a blow to the labor movement because it would shift workers away from hard-won employer healthcare and into a government-run system. But not all unions are going along with the idea.

This year, the Association of Flight Attendants was instrumental in reopening the government after the longest shutdown in history. Now, the influential union is making the case for Medicare for All. In an interview with Politico on Sunday, AFA President Sara Nelson said that the status quo wasn’t good enough. “When we’re able to hang on to the health plan we have, that’s considered a massive win, but it’s a huge drag on our bargaining,” she told Politico. “So our message is: Get it off the table.”

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And Medicare-For-All would do that, allowing unions to focus on more specialized victories for their sectors.

Nelson’s argument was echoed by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who told the site, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a single, universal access point for healthcare and we could instead spend our time bargaining for lower class sizes and wrap around services and increases to people’s pay?”

Healthcare is shaping up to be one of the defining fights of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The labor movement is split on Medicare for All, and many candidates have decided to oppose Medicare for All by invoking unions.

“This plan that’s being offered by Senator Warren and Senator Sanders will tell those union members who gave away wages in order to get good healthcare that they’re going to lose their healthcare because Washington’s going to come in and tell them they got a better plan,” Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said at the last Democratic debate.

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Nelson had a good answer for this too. “There’s no reason to say unions couldn’t negotiate something over and above whatever floor is established [by Medicare for All] just like they do in other countries and like we do now for retirees under Medicare Advantage, and there is no shortage of issues people want to address in their workplace,” she told Politico. “There will always [be] something for unions to fight on.”

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