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.