General Motors’ decision Tuesday to stop paying healthcare premiums for nearly 50,000 of the company’s striking workers offered a powerful case for why Medicare for All is necessary to ensure stable and quality insurance as a right for everyone in the United States.
That was the argument advanced by single-payer supporters in the wake of GM’s move, which union leaders and others quickly denounced as a cruel intimidation tactic designed to break the United Auto Workers strike.
“By taking healthcare off the bargaining table, workers can demand and win real gains in wages and pensions.”
Sara Nelson, president of the American Association of Flight Attendants, said employer-provided insurance allows corporations to use the threat of healthcare cuts “to hold workers hostage.”
“Medicare for All puts power back in our hands,” said Nelson.
Labor historian Toni Gilpin echoed Nelson, calling employer-provided healthcare “a cudgel that will be used against workers.”
It’s barely two days old, but we’ve already learned some valuable things from the GM strike:
1) Employer-based health care is a cudgel that will be used against workers (GM has cancelled health care for strikers) which is yet another reason why we need Medicare for All. (1/4)
— Toni Gilpin (@ToniGilpin) September 17, 2019
Michael Lighty, a founding fellow at the Sanders Institute think tank and an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America’s Medicare for All campaign, told Common Dreams that under a single-payer system, employers would no longer have “tons of leverage because workers are desperate to keep their benefit.”
“By taking healthcare off the bargaining table, workers can demand and win real gains in wages and pensions,” said Lighty, “and rebuild the solidarity at the heart of labor.”
GM’s decision came amid fierce healthcare disagreements among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Those disputes were on full display Tuesday at an AFL-CIO forum in Philadelphia, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden touted their respective healthcare proposals before a crowd of union workers.
Biden, who spoke before GM cut off striking employees’ benefits, said his public option plan would allow workers to “keep your health insurance you’ve bargained for if you like it.”
Warren Gunnels, senior adviser to Sanders, took aim at Biden’s assertion on Twitter.
“Under Medicare for All, whether you’re working, whether you’re not working, whether you go from one job to another job, it’s right there with you.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
“Try telling that to UAW workers who just had their healthcare benefits taken away from them by GM,” said Gunnels. “Medicare for All is the only way to make sure that no American loses their health insurance ever again and workers will finally receive the higher wages and benefits they need and deserve.”
Sanders, who spoke at the AFL-CIO forum shortly after GM’s move, said Medicare for All would eliminate corporations’ ability to cut off healthcare benefits by guaranteeing comprehensive coverage to everyone in the U.S.
“Here you have the situation where the UAW is now on strike, 49,000 workers. I’m sure that in that 49,000, there are family members who are seriously ill,” said Sanders. “Under Medicare for All, whether you’re working, whether you’re not working, whether you go from one job to another job, it’s right there with you.”
Splinter‘s Paul Blest argued Wednesday that GM’s decision to stop paying for workers’ healthcare premiums just a day after UAW’s strike began counters one of the main centrist talking points against Medicare for All.
“Hasn’t Joe Biden been touting the fact that unions fought for their healthcare as a reason why Medicare for All is bad?” said Blest. “In one fell swoop, General Motors proved why that line of attack on Medicare for All and its proponents, namely Sen. Bernie Sanders, is complete bullshit.”
“Under a single-payer system, in which your healthcare is dependent on the fact that you exist in the United States rather than who you work for,” wrote Blest, “there would be no employer healthcare for GM—or any other company—to cut off. And instead of worrying about healthcare, that’s one less thing workers everywhere would have to bargain over when entering contract negotiations with their employers.”
As Vox‘s Tara Golshan noted, GM’s move is far from unusual for corporate America.
“Union contract negotiations break down all the time,” wrote Golshan. “And union leaders are quick to point out that healthcare, which always plays a major role in union contract negotiations, is a major sticking point. Companies use healthcare as leverage to negotiate down wage increases and other benefits. That’s why some of the biggest unions in the country support Medicare for All—or at least moving in that direction.”
White House adviser warned colleagues Nancy Pelosi would eventually bring Trump down: ‘She’s an assassin’
In an excerpt from the new book "A Very Stable Genius," former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon predicted that now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would eventually attempt to bring the president down one way or the other.
According to Axios, the book states, "The night of January 23 , the first Monday of his presidency, Trump came face?to?face with House and Senate leaders from both parties at a White House reception ... At a long table in the State Dining Room, Steve Bannon ... could not stop looking at Nancy Pelosi..."
These 6 GOP senators have negative approval ratings — threatening Republican control in 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may not be in control of the body following the 2020 elections. In fact, he might not even be a senator.
On Thursday, Morning Consult released a new poll on all 100 senators, based on 494,899 interviews with voters. The survey had some major red flags for Republicans hoping to hold control of the chamber in 2020.
President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is putting enormous pressure on vulnerable Republicans, Morning Consult's Eli Yokley explained.
It’s 2020 and Florida’s Supreme Court just ruled in favor of a poll tax
"Florida cannot violate the U.S. Constitution's protections. The right to vote cannot be contingent on the ability to pay."
Florida's state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of denying convicted felons the right to vote if they do not pay fines and fees associated with their incarceration, a decision that was immediately assailed by rights activists as an unconstitutional and immoral poll tax.
In a statement condemning the ruling (pdf), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Florida, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the ruling "does not—indeed, cannot—alter what the U.S. Constitution requires."