On M4A, “I’m with Culinary,” Weingarten told me. It turns out, she isn’t listening.


I’m thinking back to 2003 when our little suburban teachers union local went out on strike.

It was one of the proudest moments of my working life as a union activist.

The issue we walked out over was health insurance costs for the families of district employees. District employees had their insurance paid for as part of our collective bargaining agreement. But in 2003 a teacher who was the only member of a family with a job had to fork out over $8,000 a year for family coverage. $8,000 a year would be nearly $12,000 a year in 2020 dollars.

But that didn’t impact most of us. Most of us were either single or had a working spouse with better, cheaper insurance. Yet we voted to strike for the relatively small minority of members whose health care costs were just killing them.

And after a week-long strike in a cold Chicago November, we won, reducing the cost of family coverage for the minority of our members who needed it.

One for all and all for one. That was the way we rolled.


I saw the same thing  happen in Nevada on Saturday.

Last week on Facebook I got a message from American Federation President Randi Weingarten blasting me for supporting Bernie Sanders on Medicare for All.

“Why are you not listening to so many of our members that want to drive down costs, that want to take on big pharma and the insurance companies, but they want to have the choice on their insurance?” Randi challenged me.

“I agree with Culinary,” she said.

By “Culinary” she meant the Las Vegas Culinary Union leaders who, while making no endorsement in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, issued a strongly worded statement opposing Sanders on M4A.

Props to the Culinary Union. They do have good health insurance and coverage for their members. 

But then Culinary Union members spoke for themselves on Saturday.

More than 60% of Nevada caucus-goers support eliminating private insurance and moving to a single-payer healthcare system, according to a poll conducted by Edison Media Research as Democratic voters entered their precincts Saturday.

The entrance poll showed that 62% of Nevada caucus-goers “support replacing all private health insurance with a single government plan for everyone,” the Washington Post reported. Single-payer received a similar level of support among Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Nevada caucus-goers also ranked healthcare as their top issue, followed by the climate crisis and income inequality.

“It’s fair to say Democratic leadership fails to understand how much everyday Americans hate their private healthcare coverage,” tweeted TIME contributor Christopher Hale.

It turns out Nevada’s culinary workers have a better sense of class solidarity than the President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Despite the leadership of Nevada’s largest union criticizing Bernie Sanders over his health care plan in the lead-up to the state’s presidential caucus, the majority of union members caucusing at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip backed Sanders on Saturday.

Some workers who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they support Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, even though they appreciate the union health care they have, because they have friends and relatives who don’t have union health care and worry about what would happen if they lost their jobs.


10 thoughts on “On M4A, “I’m with Culinary,” Weingarten told me. It turns out, she isn’t listening.

  1. We need Medicare for All!!! There are 27 million people in the US who have NO health insurance. There are millions who cannot afford their deductibles and co-pays so they don’t go to see doctors. The major reason for bankruptcy in the US is medical bills.
    Insurance companies exist to make profits. They care nothing about our health. We need journalists who continue to tell the public WHY it is necessary. Fox propaganda network keeps repeating that we can’t afford Medicare for All.
    Nobody should have to put out a GoFundMe page in an attempt to get money for needed medical care. If other countries can pass healthcare for ALL of their citizens, so can the US.

    Listen to Medicare for All: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
    Feb 16, 2020
    As presidential candidates continue to discuss Medicare for All, John Oliver explores how much it might cost, what it will change, and who it will help.

  2. Just for the record, as far as I can tell, no one in NYC has insurance remotely as good as MFA. I cannot fathom that the Nevada union has better insurance either. No one factors in end of like care, non-participating doctors, dental, or even copays. As good as their plan may be, it’s not MFA. And even if it were, the notion that we’ve got ours and everyone else can go to hell is not precisely what I’d interpret as solidarity.

    1. Medicare generally pays 80% of medical bills, with no out of pocket limit. That is where some sort of supplement policy to pay the other 20% would be needed. Before I retired, my employer health insurance covered at 80% with an out of pocket limit of $1200.00 per year. One thing I learned after retiring was Medicare does not cover some things that my previous insurance did cover. The coverage of private insurers is figured in to the cost. Better plans cost more. I worked for a unionized employer, and time and again, we had to fight for our “maintenance of benefits” in our contract. The employer would try to lower costs by stealthily reducing what was covered down to lower costs. The union actually went on strike because of this, among other things.
      Medicare is a good baseline coverage for everyone, but additional coverages should be available at actual cost, and unions should be allowed to negotiate to get these coverages for their members.

      1. A system of national health care would eliminate the need for separate union active or pension coverage. And it would cover those who do not have union contracts. And it would eliminate the need for each collective bargaining unit to bargain their own plans. And it would take the insurance companies out of the arrangement. They only add a layer of costs and add nothing.

  3. Also–haven’t we all said, “We want for ALL children what our own children have.”
    Same with health care–we want EVERYONE to have health insurance.
    Every other industrial nation believes health care is a human right.
    Not only do the GOP not believe this, but neither does the DNC.

  4. What about the 20% that Medicare does not cover? If supplemental coverage is eliminated, MFA would need to be ENHANCED MFA (EMFA) to cover 100% instead of 80% of costs. Just covering what present Medicare covers at 80% would not be adequate. A lot of people can not pay 20% of a large medical bill. Also we need to abolish HMO type arrangements and make PPOs standard. That way, if you want another opinion, you can go wherever you want, even Mayo, U of Chicago, Cleveland clinic, MD Anderson, Loma Linda, UCLA, and anywhere else. To get any of this we have to win the elections. We have to keep control of the house, and regain control of the senate as well as the presidency. Unless we can do that, MFA or an EMFA won’t happen. Trump has said he plans to make cuts to social security and Medicare in his second term (he has to pay for tax cuts for billionaires somehow).

    1. Bernie’s Medicare for All would eliminate the 20% payment that currently is in place. It would also cover vision and hearing, which currently is NOT covered.

      Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care. Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than US$450 billion annually (based on the value of the US$ in 2017). The entire system could be funded with less financial outlay than is incurred by employers and households paying for health-care premiums combined with existing government allocations. This shift to single-payer health care would provide the greatest relief to lower-income households. Furthermore, we estimate that ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68 000 lives and 1·73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo.

  5. Anon: Maybe Bernie shouldn’t call it Medicare for All; perhaps it would be better named National Health Service, just as it is in England, or whatever it’s called in Canada. It really wouldn’t work the way Medicare does, w/the 80% here & 20% there & co-pays, etc. Honestly, we will have to pay some (but not greatly) higher taxes, which is definitely the case in Canada, but then we won’t be having to pay private insurance companies premiums which keep getting higher & higher, & is going to be the case in employee benefit health insurance, where rates are not guaranteed. Also, you have to have an in-network provider for best benefits–that distinction is not made w/National Health Care.
    Go talk to some Canadians about their health care system (& much lower cost pharmaceuticals), & see how they feel about it.
    Then, look up the salaries of all the insurance company C.E.O.s in Forbes or Crane’s Chicago Business (which just published them a few months ago; I saved it, but I have to find it–been too busy).
    Makes me think, though, of the John Prine song, w/the lyric: “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all
    the money goes…”
    Well, there’s a money tube straight into the corporate offices of the insurance companies (you know, like at the bank drive-up?) where all our money goes…

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