At the June 2019 House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Medicare for All, Texas Republican Kevin Murphy lamented, “That great health care plan that your union negotiated for you? It’s gone. Banned under Medicare for All.”1

A right-wing congressman with a 7 percent lifetime voting score from the AFL-CIO crying crocodile tears for great union health care plans can be easily dismissed as just another absurdity of the increasingly dysfunctional American political system. But when Joe “the workingman’s friend” Biden repeats the charge almost word for word and when AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka insists—on Fox News no less!—that “if there isn’t some way to have our plans integrated into the system, then we would not support [Medicare for All],”2 something is certainly happening out there. Talking points, after all, don’t just come out of thin air. They are carefully crafted and disseminated by a coterie of lobbyists and publicists often working on behalf of shadowy corporate and political interests.

Trumka was shortly joined by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who just six months earlier had delivered a full-throated endorsement of the Medicare for All Act at a rally celebrating its introduction.3 In her September 23, 2019, Politico article, Weingarten walked back that support in favor of a fictitious system in which “employer-based insurance would be allowed to exist to the extent that plans met or exceeded the standards set by the Medicare plan.” Such a system “would allow people who like their current employer-based plan—which seven in ten Americans claim to (although it’s likely they like their doctor, not the plan itself)—to keep it, allow for a gradual transition from one plan to another when necessary, and effectively improve on the model originally created by the Affordable Care Act.”4

The spectacle of national labor leaders defending a system that is the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession bargaining is mind-boggling. For an entire generation now, unions in the United States have traded wages and other benefits for shrinking coverage by employer-provided health insurance (or for the ever-increasing employer contributions required to maintain similarly shrinking benefits from union-sponsored health and welfare funds).… 

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