Blog

October 10, 2019

ALL IN - OCTOBER: What We Can Learn From the GM Strikes

by DSA M4A

September saw one of the largest auto-worker strikes in decades! Tens of thousands of workers took the picket lines with a range of demands, including one that is especially near and dear to our hearts: better healthcare.

Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked out of General Motors plants across the country on Sept. 15 with demands that included fair wages, job security and an increased share of the profits. In a press release that announced the strike, though, healthcare was front and center: “Among GM failures, affordable healthcare for thousands remains unsettled for no good reason.”

GM retaliated by cutting off healthcare coverage for the striking workers two days after the union announced the strike, and that’s when one of the world’s top automakers made an amazing case for why we all need to join the fight for single-payer healthcare. “It took less than a full day for GM to cut off healthcare and begin using it as leverage to try to force the UAW to agree to a contract that still doesn’t give back to workers for the sacrifices they made when the auto industry was going ass up. It’s not ass up anymore; GM pulled in $12 billion in pre-tax profits last year,” wrote Paul Blest for Splinter. “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... there would be no employer healthcare for GM — or any other company — to cut off.”

Medicare for All coalition members and DSA chapters across the nation — from San Francisco to Portland to Philly — got involved in shows of solidarity with striking workers on the picket line. The backlash from DSA, other M4A coalition organizations, other unions and even the general public was fiery and significant, and GM said it would resume paying for health insurance for striking hourly workers less than two weeks after the strike began. This is the power of collective action!

It also emphasizes why we’re fighting this fight: your well-being should not be dependent on the whims of your employer, and healthcare should never become a weapon for employers to wield to control workers. Medicare for All means no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays, no out-of-pocket max, and it also means more power for working people, who would no longer worry about pleasing their boss in exchange for the ability to live a healthy, dignified life.

The company had not come to an agreement with the union at the time of writing, and the strike is now the longest nationwide strike by GM's workers in nearly 50 years. By some estimates, GM could stand to lose as much as $100 million a day during the strike.

One more piece of news: this newsletter is celebrating its first birthday! This newsletter is written each month by the DSA M4A campaign’s dedicated group of volunteers, and we thank you for reading! We do our best to capture the month’s latest M4A news and showcase the incredible work of our comrades across the country, but please always feel free to send us news, tips and pitches at medicareforall@dsausa.org.

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News from the M4A blog and the broader campaign

The GM strike attracted many 2020 presidential nominee hopefuls, but only Sen. Bernie Sanders made a compelling, uncompromising case for why we need nothing short of Medicare for All. “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.” Meanwhile, other candidates, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, stuck to the Democratic Party line, saying his public option plan would allow workers to “keep your health insurance you’ve bargained for if you like it.” We know the “public option” is inferior to a true Medicare for All plan, and would only serve to exacerbate inequalities in our healthcare system. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate we can trust to enact Medicare for All.

🗞 News 🗞

Related news articles, essays, articles from outlets beyond the campaign

No one is immune to health scares, not even Bernie Sanders himself. Sanders took a short break from campaigning to have a relatively common heart procedure in which two stents are inserted into an artery. Campaign officials say he will be back on the campaign trail shortly and plans to attend the next Democratic debate. Just hours after the procedure Wednesday, Sanders tweeted, “None of us know when a medical emergency might affect us. And no one should fear going bankrupt if it occurs. Medicare for All!” Get well soon, Bernie! We’ll keep fighting for you.

Bonus: Virgil Texas of Chapo Trap House spoke with Bernie about Medicare for All, class warfare, and how the Sanders campaign is building a cross-class mass movement. Watch the interview on YouTube.

Dental care is a crucial part of Medicare for All, writes Dorothy Higgonbotham for Jacobin. Higginbotham has been a practicing dental hygienist in Alaska for more than 30 years, and says she regularly sees patients who come to the dentist in severe pain and only as a last resort. An estimated 74 million people in the United States have no dental benefits, and these people are “more likely to have extractions instead of restorative care or treatment for gum disease. They are also 67 percent more likely to have heart disease, 50 percent more likely to have osteoporosis, and 29 percent more likely to have diabetes.” Good oral health is an important part of a person’s overall health, and only Bernie Sanders is fighting to make sure Medicare for All means dental care for all, too.

The current Medicare program works because it’s a public program, and that’s why we must push back against the Trump Administration’s broader misinformation campaign about Medicare for All. Trump issued an executive order last week championing Medicare Advantage, which is provided by private insurers and currently covers 22 million people. The plan was (hilariously) called “Protecting Medicare From Socialist Destruction” but later renamed to “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors.” Not surprisingly, Trump relied on scare tactics and xenophobia in his speech announcing the order, which was sparse on policy specifics. As Medicare for All advocates, we know Medicare isn’t under threat; private insurers are.

🔦 Chapter spotlight 🔦

A look at what locals are doing around the country

Portland DSA isn’t backing down in their fight to flip Sen. Ron Wyden on Medicare for All. Wyden spoke in September at an event for the private insurance industry, and Portland chapter members made their thoughts on his decision to do so loud and clear.

Louisville DSA knows that Bernie is the only true Medicare for All candidate!

East Bay DSA says #BeBoldEndHyde.

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