Unions Fight Among Themselves about Support for Medicare for All
On one side of the divide are more liberal unions likethe American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union, which argue that leaving health benefits to the government could free unions to refocus collective bargaining on wages and working conditions. On the other side are more conservative unions likethe International Association of Fire Fighters and New York’s Building & Construction Trades Council, which don’t trust the government to create a health plan as good as what their members enjoy now.
“It’s an extremely divisive issue within the labor movement,” said Steve Rosenthal, a former political director for the AFL-CIO. “Nobody’s opinions will be changed during the presidential nominating fight, and unions may well be divided over Democratic candidates until the end.”
In New York, the New York State Nurses Association and Local 1100 of the Service Employees International Union pressed hard in 2018 for a state single-payer system. But other unions, including the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, joined forces with private health insurers to kill the bill, funding polling to show opposition to the tax increases needed to implement it and writing op-eds calling the plan a “folly” that would “send jobs and people fleeing” the state.
…When Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) rolled out revamped versions of their single-payer bills in 2018, they did so with the official backing of the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers, National Nurses United, the American Federation of Government Employees and others.
In an interview, Jayapal said her main argument to unions is this: Even if they fear the unknown, the current system is unsustainable.