Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Union leader Sara Nelson took issue with comments by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on healthcare.

Union leader Sara Nelson took issue with comments by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on healthcare. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)  

'Age Old Divide and Conquer Tactics': Union Leader Sara Nelson Rips Buttigieg Comments on Healthcare

"Anytime the word 'they' is used with workers, it's a sign of union-busters at work. The only pronoun that represents unionism and builds power is we/us."

Eoin Higgins

Union leader Sara Nelson ripped former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his comments on healthcare and labor Wednesday, accusing the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate of using divisive tactics and language for political gain and at the cost of workers. 

Buttigieg, in two tweets in English and Spanish respectively, suggested his so-called Medicare for All Who Want It plan would protect labor-won health plans, despite the fact that a single-payer system would render such plans obsolete.

Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, took offense to the White House hopeful's use of union workers as a wedge in the healthcare debate.

"Stop perpetuating this gross myth," said Nelson. "Not every union member has union healthcare plans that protect them."

"Don't use unions to promote division," she added, "that's only good for the profiteers."

In an interview with Common Dreams, Nelson expanded on the message of her tweets and the labor movement's place in the healthcare debate. 

"This is age old divide and conquer tactics and we have to call it out and reject the attempts to distract us," said Nelson. "Anytime the word 'they' is used with workers, it's a sign of union-busters at work."

While Buttigieg was trying to use negotiated health benefits specifically as a wedge issue, Nelson said the union sees it differently—that "the value of negotiated benefits is important," not necessarily a fixed benefit by itself. 

And, Nelson said, the divisiveness in Buttigieg's remarks must be rejected.

"I oppose any message that pits union members against non-union members," said Nelson. "We need to welcome workers to our unions. We need to work together to address this issue so everyone is protected."

Other progressives took issue with Buttigieg's remarks and what was seen as an anti-worker undercurrent in the comments. 

Union negotiator Erik Strobl pointed out that Medicare for All would help, not hurt, labor.

"Medicare for All would free up bargaining power for wages and the common good, and it would protect union members against a bad employer pulling healthcare during a strike," said Strobl. "Medicare for All is a gift to the labor movement."

Media journalist Adam Johnson excoriated Buttigieg's remarks, calling them comments that would fuel "future rightwing attacks on both the frontrunner and socialized medicine for years to come."

Buttigieg should understand that workers stand together and appreciate the benefits of universal healthcare, Nelson told Common Dreams.

"The only pronoun that represents unionism and builds power is we/us," Nelson said. "All in."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Bush and Warren Lead New Bill to Protect Renters Nationwide From Eviction

"This pandemic isn't over, and we have to do everything we can to protect renters from the harm and trauma of needless eviction, which upends the lives of those struggling to get back on their feet."

Jessica Corbett ·


Campaign Slams Vaccine Makers for Fueling 'Unprecedented' Human Rights Crisis

"Covid-19 vaccines must be readily available and accessible for all. It is up to governments and pharma companies to make this a reality."

Brett Wilkins ·


Sunrise Movement Targets Kyrsten Sinema for Obstructing Build Back Better Act

"Who do you work for? Do you work for the young, BIPOC, and working people who put their lives on hold to elect you? Or do you work for ExxonMobil and fossil fuel corporations?"

Brett Wilkins ·


UN Chief Tells World Leaders To Their Faces That Vaccine Apartheid Is 'An Obscenity'

Persistent inequality represents "a moral indictment of the state of our world," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Julia Conley ·


Global People's Summit on Food Systems Kicks Off to Challenge 'Corporate Agenda' of UN Meeting

"The people are hungry for real change, and are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for and reclaim their land, their rights, and the future of food systems."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo