Brooklyn, NY – This week’s Democratic debates showed that right-wing corporate Democrats are intent on undermining Medicare for All — and they’re more than happy to use organized labor as pawns to do it.
As LP’s Steve Wishnia pointed out, the bloated field of Democratic Party contenders could barely bring themselves to utter the word “union” in any substantive way over the last two nights of corporate-controlled debates.
But the right-wingers gracing the glossy cable-TV stage were more than happy to invoke Labor in an attempt to frame Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren-supported plans to guarantee comprehensive healthcare to every single American as an erosion of current union healthcare plans won at the bargaining table.
The same hard-won plans that are constantly under attack, whittled away and absorb enormous amounts of union energy to secure.
Nevertheless, corporate Dems including Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and current Montana Governor Steve Bullock ruefully dismissed Medicare for All as some form of “wish list economics.”
Former Maryland representative and CEO John Delaney outdid them all when he channelled Hillary Clinton’s winning position on single-payer health care when he also sniffed that “It will never happen.”
Highly-paid CNN moderator Jake Tapper tried using union health plans to trap Sanders saying, “If Medicare for All is enacted, there are over 600,000 union members here in Michigan who would be forced to give up their private healthcare plans.”
The debate performances prompted a stern rebuke from the head of the second-largest union in the United States.
“I was frankly really enraged at the notion that somehow because unions have been able to bargain better plans, that there isn’t a way to figure out how to maintain those standards and benefits in a bigger plan that covers more people,” Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said on Wednesday, adding that the debates “created a false choice.”
Kayla Blado, head of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, told LaborPress this week that attempts by former Congressman Delaney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday night to say union members won’t support Medicare for all because they would lose their private insurance “seems disingenuous for several reasons.”
“The most obvious reason is that one consistent goal of the labor movement has been to raise standards for working people across the country—not just for themselves,” Blado said. “Additionally, if unions didn’t have to bargain for health care in every new contract, they could focus their efforts on raising wages and working conditions for their membership—and management couldn’t erode the quality of coverage they receive.”
Blado also pointed out that more than 20 national unions have already come out supporting Medicare for all, “reflecting how popular the option is within rank-and-file members.”
“Health care is a right, not a privilege, and these Democratic candidates are doing the Labor Movement a disservice by misrepresenting the views of union members across the country,’ Blado added.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, however, sent out some mixed signals earlier this week, when he told reporters, “While we would like to see universal health care, we want to make sure that there is a role for employer-bargained plans in that plan.”
Today, more than 30 million Americans do not have any type of health insurance — and those that do have a plan find that it is not enough. Medical bills continue to be the number one cause of bankruptcies across the United States, while tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they lack proper health care.
The corporate media, meanwhile, has frequently portrayed former Vice-President Joe Biden as the candidate to beat in the crowded field of Democratic hopefuls. Biden, like the rest of the corporate Dems, does not support Medicare for All.
When the People’s Policy Project — a small donor think tank headed by former National Labor Relations Board lawyer Matt Bruenig — analyzed Joe Biden’s health care plan earlier this summer, they found that in its first decade, Bidencare would lead to the deaths of 125,000 uninsured Americans.