Labor Unions Divided on Medicare for All

Democrats, Medicare for All
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Although Medicare for All remains a popular proposal for progressive Democrats, many labor unions remain divided over whether the single-payer healthcare proposal would benefit American workers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and other moderate 2020 Democrat presidential candidates have attempted to cast Medicare for All as harmful to the American worker, although some labor unions have backed the single-payer healthcare plan.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), endorsed Medicare for All in 2019.

Weingarten said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a single, universal access point for health care and we could instead spend our time bargaining for lower class sizes and wrap around services and increases to people’s pay? Wouldn’t it be great it if it wasn’t always dominated by health care fights?”

The AFT represents 1.7 million teachers and serves as the second-largest union representing nurses and other healthcare workers. National Nurses United, the largest union representing healthcare workers, has continued to fight for Medicare for All.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents more than 300,000 federal bureaucrats, has endorsed Medicare for All.

Jacqueline Simon, the AFGE’s policy director, said:

Not only have health insurance premiums risen every year for the 30 years I’ve been involved with the union, but there’s also been steady cost-shifting from the government to the workers. We recognize that the enormous premiums federal employees are required to pay are far higher than what they’d pay in new taxes under Medicare for All. They would come out ahead, unequivocally.

However, other large labor unions support a more incremental approach or even oppose single-payer health care.

“We are supporting any policy proposal or legislation that moves us in the direction of universal coverage,” Leslie Frane, an executive at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said.

The International Association of Fire Fighters has served as the largest labor union against Medicare for All, believing it would deprive workers of plans that fit their specific healthcare needs.

Harold Schaitberger, the firefighter union president, said:

We’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing plans that recognize the uniqueness of our members’ profession, the health consequences and exposures related to our work, including behavioral health issues like PTSD, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. We question whether a governmentwide, government-run plan for everyone would ever be able to recognize those unique circumstances.

Many early state Democrats, including those from Iowa, have signaled that they support a less progressive healthcare plan compared to Medicare for All.

A recent Monmouth Unversity poll found that 56 percent of likely Iowa Democrat voters prefer a public option, compared to only 21 percent that would back Medicare for All.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.