Never let a serious crisis go to waste was the left’s maxim throughout the Obama years. Now Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are dusting off the old playbook and using the autoworkers’ strike against General Motors to push Medicare for All. Unsurprisingly, they’re doing so by falsely claiming thousands of workers have been stripped of healthcare by a greedy and nefarious corporation.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union called a nationwide strike Monday after union leadership failed to reach an agreement with General Motors during contract negotiations. Almost 50,000 workers are now on strike. The following day, in accordance with the contract terms agreed upon by UAW leadership, GM revealed that it would cease healthcare coverage for striking workers.
Following the announcement, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez seized the opportunity to rail against GM and push for government-run healthcare. “This is straight barbarism,” the representative tweeted. “Yet another reason we insist on #MedicareforAll: so your healthcare won’t be held hostage to negotiate lower wages.”
Not to be outdone by his fellow socialist, Sen. Sanders weighed in by calling GM’s decision “cruel, outrageous” and the “type of corporate greed that the American people are sick and tired of.” At a campaign event that same day, Sanders criticized General Motors while plugging his signature healthcare policy. “Under Medicare for All, every American — whether you’re working, whether you’re not working, when you are going from one job to another job — it’s there with you,” said Sanders.
Of course, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez fail to mention that UAW union leadership rejected GM’s publicly disclosed proposal which offered the union $7 billion in new investment at existing plants, would spare the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant from closure and create 5,400 more jobs. Workers would receive annual wage increases over the next four years, an $8,000 signing bonus per worker and an increased profit-sharing formula. Before talks broke down, GM had even agreed to maintain low healthcare premiums at 3% – a walk-back of the company’s earlier attempt to reportedly raise premiums to 15%.
Putting these facts aside, as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are wont to do, did some 50,000 workers really lose healthcare coverage as the two Democrats claim? Of course not.
In reality, GM’s decision to stop providing healthcare benefits to striking workers should come as a surprise to no one, least of all UAW’s members. During a strike, workers’ healthcare benefits shift to being funded by the union’s strike fund. This is a primary reason workers pay union dues in the first place. In fact, UAW leadership has spent the summer educating its members on this point in preparation for a strike. A Frequently Asked Questions section on UAW’s website even details the benefits workers are provided from the union’s strike fund including medical coverage and prescription drugs. For workers enrolled in COBRA coverage, benefits are even made retroactive to the beginning of the strike.
Despite autoworkers maintaining medical benefits throughout the strike, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez still spread the lie that GM is holding the healthcare of its workers hostage in order to push Medicare for All. All considered, UAW members have a fairly generous arrangement for employees refusing to work. Individuals working non-union jobs in the private sector would be shocked to receive healthcare benefits from their employer while declining to show up for work.
The great irony here is that the government-run healthcare plans that Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez tout as solutions for striking workers would actually take away the very benefit packages UAW members are striking to improve and eliminate their health insurance plans from the marketplace entirely. Any gains achieved by the autoworkers to their medical benefits would be forfeited under a Sanders presidency.
But why let the facts get in the way? Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have a crisis on their hands, and they can’t let it go to waste.