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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 SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to 'rally the American people' if Biden wins MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver 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 DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.) and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanNow's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lincoln Project hits Trump for criticizing Goodyear, 'an American company' 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