Home | About | Donate

Why Are These Labor Unions Opposing Medicare for All?


Why Are These Labor Unions Opposing Medicare for All?

Natalie Shure

For seven years, healthcare activists in New York have been pushing the New York Health Act, a single-payer bill that would provide statewide universal health coverage. Hopes for the bill’s chances were buoyed this year, as a new class of Democrats won election to the state legislature. But now the plan’s path forward could be called into question, thanks to opposition from labor unions in the state.


Solidarity can’t expand in a silo


Labor Union officials should be creaming their jeans excited about supporting their members with the best comprehensive Healthcare option available.

There’s only one reason they wouldn’t.

Money. Money not reaching their pockets.


This was a good article. A not-small contingent of organized labor opposed Social Security because of the payroll tax and the belief they could bargain for better retirement security. This changed over time, but it’s one reason why Social Security did not cover a significant portion of the labor force originally. Let’s not forget that members under negotiated contracts may not be as excited as progressive activists are about changes to the healthcare system. Hard-fought-for benefits aren’t easily given up. It’s important to keep perspective on the matter and not slight members and union reps—they are greedy and want money—who are leery of giving up what they fought for and earned.

Sometimes union leadership can be disinterested and disaffected, but sometimes membership can be leery of changes to existing contracts.


Good point. What union rep. needs heath care being used by business as a bargaining chip. Get health care off the table by guaranteeing it as a right, not a privilege. And certainly not as a foil to hold out on raises with.


So, the big firefighters unions don’t support MFA, the pollice unions don’t support use of force reforms, citizens police boards, court-ordered consent decrees and MFA, the prison guards unions don’t like criminal justice reform and MFA, the Teamsters drivers don’t like random drug testing and the MFA…
Why don’t we ask them all how they feel about 2/3rds of the Democratic Party telling them and the Establishment to go pound sand?
It’s called a coalition party for a reason. It’s not The My Way Or The Highway Party, after all.


I’m not sure I understand what you are getting at.


You might be right, but as a past local president of the International Association of Firefighters, I would have been thrilled to take healthcare off of the negotiating table, and concentrate on other issues. That said, I’m not sure they are affiliated with the IAFF, if I recall, FDNY had multiple union locals, and being the largest dept. in the country, they regularly bucked the system. Still sad they would snub their fellow citizens.


I think it will be a mix, like all things. Prior to the passage of the ACA, my one-time union had townhalls to assuage members that thought it would affect the contract. It is a bread-and-butter issue and people get leery of change, especially if they have a decent contract. The default is always to stick with what you know.

This is also why I am an advocate of John Yarmuth’s idea of holding congressional hearings, to get some facts on the ground. A transition period, from employer provided to public system, can be a topic of discussion.


The unions need to be on the team but not THE TEAM. They have issues, of course, but so do the rest of the coalition members.
The rank-and-file needs to support their communities, not the Union Management on healthcare, etc.


Unions, especially, should be able to understand the advantages of Medicare for All in terms of solidarity (or reciprocity, as I prefer to call it)—the good that we want for ourselves should be equally available to all. This formulation avoids all the endless quibbling over what is and isn’t a “right.”


The Unions resisting are self serving. They advocate for the COLLECTIVE self interest of those that are members and pay dues while at the same time resisting the idea of the Public at large acting as a collective. In other words it ok for US to unionize for the greater good of our members but it not ok for the rest of you that are not in our union to do the same.

They are acting like Capitalists. They want to protect their privileges by ensuring no-one else can get them.


Don’t know if you have done any organizing on the union side, but I learned real quick when I was doing it that telling people what they “should do” and changes to negotiated contract benefits are two different things. People turn real quick when you start talking “shoulds” even when they are on your side. Human nature is to default to what you know; change gets scary when things get real.

This is why I like John Yarmuth’s idea of holding congressional hearings. I don’t expect amazing things from them, but to at least get some issues out there, like a transition period to honor existing contracts, might help boost labor support among more skeptical union organizations.


Good sumarion …thanks.




Police officers can’t quit their job, because they would lose their healthcare.


Police unions are a joke, they don’t know the meaning of the word union. Every action we, as firefighters, brought against the city, the police union always had excuses for why they wouldn’t stand with us, yet always received what ever we won. I have zero respect for them.


Now that was the answer I was going to give. It is everyone for themselves in a capitalist society. But unions are just for their members, not the collective good. That is how they are set up. They fought for their members and the destruction of unions has made them even more likely to fight only for themselves.
Unions fought hard for what they got. And unfortunately the rest didn’t join in. No instead they went along with right to work, went along with the destruction, calling unions evil. And thus the rights they fought for are being lost. And their power has shrunk. I know how that fight went, trying to get something and not having any power.
The old game of divide and conquer, make everyone scared that they would lose what they have to someone else and they will be against it. With all the people trying to destroy unions, why should unions care about them?
It’s difficult to get people to care about others when their own skin can get hurt.


Worked for a union and tried hard to get people to fight for rights to negotiate. I agree it’s difficult to get people to accept shoulds on negotiated contracts. Change is scary for most people, that is for sure.


Canada has a higher rate of Unionization then the USA and yet we have single payer Universal healthcare.

This in fact did not diminish the power of unions in any way shape or form. What it lead to is Unions recognizing they can add even more to a members benefits via enhanced health care packages and can focus more on higher wages, longer sick leave, longer vacations , better pensions and the like.

I have seen the results of some of those negotiations in the USA. When the Corporation does in fact provide health care it becomes part of the total benefit package meaning the Worker gets LESS of that other stuff. The Corporation says “well this health insurance provision is equivalent to XXX dollars per hour and we consider that a considerable increase in benefits”.