Substantial Support by Major Labor Unions for Medicare-for-All
Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias spreads misinformation about Medicare-for-All, deletes entire Twitter feed, but offers no statement of correction.
by Alison Hartson, TYT Army
Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder, editor, and columnist for Vox, tweeted on Monday, April 15, 2019: “The fact that major labor unions aren’t on board with Medicare for All is yet another pretty good sign that this isn’t going to happen.”
Yglesias was citing an article from AP News by Michelle L. Price and Nicholas Riccaradi, which argues that Democrats should start focusing more on day-to-day issues that affect workers, like earning enough money to pay their bills.
In Price and Riccaradi’s article, the only statement about Medicare-for-All came from the executive secretary of Nevada AFL-CIO, Rusty McAllister: “[Medicare-for-All is] not something that I think that labor is as much focused on as some of the progressives are.” Yglesias then stretched that statement into an assertion that major labor unions therefore oppose the measure, even though AFL-CIO supports Medicare-for-All Single-Payer.
In fact, the majority of all union workers in this country are represented by unions that have endorsed Medicare-for-All. This includes Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second largest union in the country. Additionally, as many as 637 union organizations have stated their support for Medicare-for-All Single-Payer healthcare, as well as 22 international/national unions.
Union opposition to Medicare-for-All is actually scarce and largely made with unsubstantiated claims.
Hannah Verret states in her article, “Labor Unions Bristle Against Medicare for All,” that “while it may seem like a labor union and Medicare for All have similar end goals, the labor union groups do not see it that way.” She then offers not a single union as an example, nor does she cite any sources.
Natalie Shure writes “Why Are These Labor Unions Opposing Medicare for All?” for In These Times, Salon, and Truthout, referring to New York’s state version of Medicare-for-All where New York City municipal unions were concerned about the details of the bill and potentially losing control over healthcare bargaining. One of the two unions she mentions is The New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, which represents some local IBEW unions, yet IBEW supports Medicare-for-All. Research into the other union she mentions, The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, has not turned up any evidence of their stance.
Shure also claims that “while unions comprised of nurses and healthcare workers have numbered among single payer’s most dedicated backers, many others maintain relative neutrality”; and “The AFL-CIO officially endorsed the policy in 2009, but many activists characterize labor support as existing largely on-paper.” She then offers no evidence and no sources.
While the discussion about unions opposing Medicare-for-All is limited, the articles that do exist are loaded with statements from people who do not represent unions and claims that cannot be verified. It may make sense that union members would want to speak off the record since there is a lot of union support for Medicare-for-All, but it is difficult if not impossible to say how many people that anecdotal evidence represents.
There is no doubt that labor support will be critical in passing populist reforms such as Medicare-for-All that prioritize people over profit. This is not a new phenomenon, but a reflection of the history of the coalition between the labor movement and progressives. This was true in the 1930s when President Roosevelt fought to successfully pass New Deal era legislation. Then, just as now, the establishment attacked legislation, such as the Wagner Act, which created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), helping unionized workers see wages increase by 65 percent and unemployment fall to less than one percent.
Nearly a century later, we are faced with a similar situation where influencers like Yglesias take advantage of their bully pulpit to shape narratives that are patently false and harmful to union workers.
It is true that some unions have concerns about Medicare-for-All, and those concerns appear to largely surround the details of a state-specific proposal. This does not equate to opposition of the policy itself. Therefore, it is not a leap to conclude that this narrative is being spun by opposition because they do not have the facts on their side.
Less than a week after his statement, Yglesias deleted his entire Twitter feed, stating: “I deleted all my tweets. Life is too short for my bullshit.”
Editing an incorrect statement (in this case deleting a Tweet) would normally be praiseworthy since it can be indicative of the author responding to facts and accepting responsibility. However, it is unclear whether Yglesias is actually acknowledging his irresponsible use of his position as an influencer in the political realm, and specifically in regards to the facts surrounding Medicare-for-All.
Separate from his Tweet, Yglesias subsequently started a heated debate with David Sirota, a Bernie Sanders senior advisor and speechwriter, which may be what actually prompted the deletion.
This is not the first time Yglesias has deleted his Twitter feed in response to criticism. In November 2018 he commented about Tucker Carlson’s wife in the aftermath of the protest outside the Tuckers’ home, and reportedly deleted his entire Twitter feed in response.
He did the same in October 2016.
Influencers in the media and politics have a certain level of responsibility to serve their audience with integrity. This includes being objective and transparent. The facts surrounding our healthcare system are far too important to get wrapped up in the political drama and ego of media personalities. Vox’s audience deserves better. If Yglesias cannot stand behind his statements firmly enough to not periodically delete his entire Twitter feed, perhaps he should exit the arena entirely.
Contributor: Angela Fujihara
Editors: Arun Ravendhran, Letitia Page, and Liz Griffith