Head of flight attendants group claims 'broad support' for 'Medicare for All' among union members

The head of a flight attendants union that represents nearly 50,000 members across the country said Thursday that there is “broad support” within the labor movement for “Medicare for All.”

“This is really something that is very unifying for union members across the country and for all the people that they care about who are not union members and don’t have access to the same health care,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told Hill.TV in response to Medicare for All, or single payer health care. The ambitious proposal is backed by progressives, including 2020 contenders Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren raised more money from Big Tech employees than other 2020 Democrats: Report Krystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' Saagar Enjeti praises Yang for bringing threat of automation to forefront at Ohio debate MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter knocks Zuckerberg for invoking her father while defending Facebook Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors MORE (D-Mass.).

Nelson emphasized the need to move away from the current health care system, noting that union leaders have struggled to address escalating health costs, which she argued often result in cuts to union member benefits. 

“Union leaders are coming back and saying, ‘hey, our companies are saying they can’t afford this health care where do you want to take the cost cuts,” she said. “Do you want to take it in the premiums, do you want to take it in the deductibles... so the discussion is always around how are we going to minimize the damage of it being eroded.”

Nelson gained national attention earlier this year after leading airport strikes during the government shutdown. She has also been a vocal public supporter of Sanders, who authored legislation on Medicare for All.

“@BernieSanders knows we have to ensure healthcare is reformed to provide care for all - otherwise we’re all lost,” she tweeted during the second round of Democratic debates last month.

Medicare for All has split the 2020 Democratic field with the divisions on full display during the primary debate in Detroit.

Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Warren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE (D-Md.) and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThird-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown MORE (D-Ohio) suggested that Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal plays into the hands of Republicans looking to repeal ObamaCare and is against the interests of labor unions.

"If you start under-paying all the health-care providers, you’re going to create a two-tier market where wealthy people buy their health care with cash, while people like my dad, the union electrician, will be forced into an underfunded system,” Delaney said on the debate stage.

But Nelson argued that claims Medicare for All is anti-union are nothing but a “typical union busting tactic.”

“That’s absurd and it’s also really offensive to labor leaders who understand that this is a typical union busting tactic to divide people within unions and to divide union members from non-union members,” she told Hill.TV in response to centrist Democrats’ criticism of the plan.

—Tess Bonn