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Sanders to Trade Unionists: Medicare for All Also Offers ‘Stability’ Now Lacking In Existing Healthcare Plans

August 6, 2019

By Joe Maniscalco

New York, NY – This past weekend, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders once again slapped down the notion advanced by some of his Democratic Party rivals on the Right that Medical Care for All will somehow hurt union members who have secured health insurance through collective bargaining.

Taking part in AFSCME’s Public Service Forum in Las Vegas on Saturday, the Vermont Senator once again affirmed his single payer, Medical for All plan provides complete healthcare, including hearing aides, eyeglasses and dental care with no co-pays, to every American. 

“Medicare for All provides comprehensive health care to every union worker and every American,” Sanders told the forum. 

Sanders, who leads the entire field of 2020 Democratic Party hopefuls with 746,000 individual donations nationwide for a total of $36 million, further said that Medicare for All will provide hardworking trade unionists the stability they now lack. 

“The advantage for union workers is that right now, every time you guys sit down to negotiate…what the employer says or the city or the town says is…’Okay, we’re going to give your 3-percent…but — by the way, you’re going to have to pay a higher deductible or a higher co-payment.’ Is that right?” Sanders said. “That is in the midst of every labor negotiation — private sector, public sector. We will do what every other major country on earth does — guarantee all of you healthcare as a right, so you can sit down and negotiate decent wage increases.”

Some 50 million Americans lose their private health insurance every year, Sanders said, while 500,000 go bankrupt after suffering a major medical health crisis. 

Sanders’ Medicare for All plan seeks to expand Medicare coverage to everyone over a four-year period. The proposed plan, also stipulates that any saving employers enjoy will go to workers. 

On Tuesday, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey  found that a majority of likely Democratic primary voters believe Sanders has a better “understanding of the problems with the U.S. healthcare system” than his 2020 rivals.

“Unions are now front and center in the political conversation with the highest public approval ratings in more than 15 years,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said at the start of this weekend’s forum, in which 18 other Democratic Party hopefuls took part. “We have a full head of steam and a strong wind at our back – and now we’re prepared to assert our role in the 2020 election.”

An endorsement from the 1.4 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees carries significant weight. Last time out, however, the union ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton’s losing presidential bid. 

“AFSCME members were energized to hear so many candidates commit to strengthening public services and leveling the playing field by making it easier for workers to come together in strong unions,” President Saunders told LaborPress in an email. “They are ready to start talking to their neighbors about the issues at stake in this election. This forum is just the beginning of a larger process to ensure that public service workers make their voices heard.”

With the Iowa Caucuses still months away and more than a year to go until November 2020,  AFSCME wants to see candidates continue their outreach, meeting with AFSCME members at union halls and in communities nationwide. 

“We want to hear more about their plans to improve the lives of all working people so everyone has a fair shot to get ahead and stay ahead,” Saunders added.

At present, the union does not have a timeline for endorsement — and is even leaving open the possibility of not endorsing a candidate in the primaries at all.

Sanders, meanwhile, reiterated his support for the Workplace Democracy Act — a bill that the Brooklyn native said will do away with “so-called right-to-work legislation” — and added that his campaign is “a little different” than the rest of the field.  

“Our campaign is a little different — It’s gonna be a government of workers, by workers and for workers,” Sanders said. 

August 6, 2019

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