Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team released several exciting new platforms this month, and we’re especially excited about one in particular when it comes to Medicare for All: The Workplace Democracy Plan.
Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Plan is unprecedented in scale and scope, and Liza Featherstone writes in Jacobin that it’s “the most pro-union platform of any major presidential candidate in decades.” Sanders’s plan would make it easier for employees to form unions, eliminate state-level right-to-work laws, give federal workers the right to strike, eliminate “at-will” firing, and more.
As Featherstone writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean unionizing every workplace will magically become a breeze, but it will significantly lower the barriers to forming a union while balancing the scales of power between workers and their employers. Sanders even includes a specific M4A provision. Directly from the platform (emphasis ours):
“Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits. Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.”
And then it gets even better: Sanders also proposed a plan to eliminate billions of dollars in medical debt. The debt forgiveness program would be separate from Medicare for All, and the campaign says it would “forgive $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt and make changes to the 2005 bankruptcy bill.”
Sanders hinted at the new plan at a town hall in Florence, South Carolina, where he later told a reporter (emphasis ours), “in the midst of a dysfunctional health care system, what we have got to do is say that you cannot go bankrupt. You cannot end up in financial distress because you’re terribly sick. That’s cruel, and that is something we've got to end.”
We agree, and we can’t wait to see what else he has in store. If you have friends, family members or colleagues who are interested in keeping up with the campaign, tell them to sign up here to receive All In straight to their inbox. Thanks for reading!
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For critics who say switching people to Medicare for All would be too disruptive, consider this: one in four adults — or 50 million people — have faced a spell of uninsurance in the past year. Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project writes that this is a direct result of how our health insurance system works. Our current system “constantly causes people to lose their insurance at nearly every critical life moment: loss of job, loss of spouse, loss of a parent, loss of Medicaid upon income increase, turning twenty-six, moving states, and so on.” People’s insurance changes all the time, for a variety of unforeseen or unexpected reasons, so why should we be afraid of a single change that will immediately improve the lives of millions of people? Pundits pose a problem that doesn’t exist, but regardless of what they say, Medicare for All is the answer.
The Texas State AFL-CIO passed a resolution supporting Medicare for All, joining the likes of hundreds of other union locals, central labor councils, state federations, and even the national AFL-CIO. But support from the Texas State AFL-CIO is especially notable, writes Ryan Haney, because just a few years ago pledging the union’s support would have been unheard of. “This conversation was always an uphill battle in Texas,” Haney writes. “But this experience was dramatically different, as airline mechanics, teachers, refinery workers, and electricians clambered to be the first to address each hesitation voiced at the convention.” While these pledges of support are certainly a step forward, Haney echoes Mark Dudzic in Democratic Left by saying unions need to show “real, ongoing commitments from all labor leaders” to Medicare for All. Now is the time to turn support into action!
And one more thing: Are you a union member? If you are, sign this petition to send a message to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka that union members want Medicare for All. Over the Labor Day weekend, Trumka used the talk show circuit to say some union workers aren’t ready to trade in their union-negotiated health plans for Medicare for All. He said this despite the fact unions representing a majority of America’s organized workers support Medicare for All, and that the AFL-CIO itself has supported single-payer in the past. Every signature helps!
The fight for Medicare for All is rooted in the struggles of today, but we still have something to learn from the struggles of those before us, write Steve Early & Rand Wilson. Thirty years ago, 60,000 telephone workers walked off the job in New York and New England for seventeen weeks, much to the dismay of their employer, NYNEX. Their primary reason for striking? Healthcare cost shifting. The strike ultimately won the members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) the ability to avoid making any healthcare premium contributions for the next two decades. To convince people, strike organizers had to make the argument that “the United States needed a tax-supported system of coverage not tied to employment.” The struggle, and that message, built solidarity for decades to come. “Remembering that history and continuing to stay united is the key to overcoming the many threats and challenges we face today,” said Boston IBEW leader Myles Calvey.
Related news articles, essays, articles from outlets beyond the campaign
In a major win for our movement and thanks in large part to the work of our Medicare for All organizers and NYC DSA, House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) announced his support for Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill, bringing the total number of House supporters to 119. The Hill reports that Jeffries is the second-highest-ranking House Democrat to back Medicare for All after New Mexican Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who already announced his support in June. We’re gaining ground, but it’s clear we have to keep the pressure on: Jeffries also pledged support for weaker plans such as "Medicare X,” which offers a public option.
Sen. Kamala Harris supported Medicare for All when it was advantageous for her campaign, but when she’s speaking to potential big-money donors, her tune changes. Bloomberg reports that Harris told a crowd of large-dollar donors that she had “not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan” despite signing on as a co-sponsor when it was introduced. Clearly Sen. Harris and her campaign understand the universal popularity of Medicare for All, so why does she tout inferior plans that are clearly no substitute (her own healthcare plan, “Kamalacare,” will laughably take 10 years to implement)? We can’t trust a candidate who says one thing to one group of people and says something entirely different to another. We need someone who is unequivocally committed to Medicare for All.
🔦 Chapter spotlight
A look at what locals are doing around the country
Albuquerque DSA announced a massive win for working people in August after Bernalillo County Commissioners passed a paid sick leave ordinance 3-2. The chapter celebrated the win, which was led by a local coalition that included NM Working Families, OLÉ, Equality New Mexico and El CENTRO.
BuxMont DSA, the suburban branch of Philly DSA, made history in August after Norristown became the first municipality in Montgomery County to pass a resolution in support of Medicare for All. Norristown, pop. 34,000, is only the second in municipality in Pennsylvania and one of just over a dozen cities and towns in the United States to pass resolutions in support of Medicare for All. You can read about how they did it here. Amazing work!
Chicago DSA has joined a pressure campaign to persuade Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to support Medicare for All. Members went out canvassing in August!
Portland DSA members presented a talk at one of their general meetings on why Medicare for All is revolutionary. Watch it in full here.
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