Casual observers of the political scene got an insight into union politics when a small storm erupted over a flyer distributed by Nevada’s Culinary Union attacking Bernie Sanders and his Medicare for All proposal.
Politico has a piece surveying similar disputes in other states and nationwide. Some unions, like the building trades and the Teamsters, want to keep the insurance plans they’ve negotiated for their members; most others want universal public insurance.
Aside from the specifics of each individual bargaining agreement and its health care provisions, this issue reveals the fundamental difference between two forms of unionism.
Business unionism is based on the idea that union members, drawing on their own resources, can create the best conditions for their work. From this point of view, the greater the difference between how well off union members are compared to the nonunion workers around them, the more attractive the union will be, the more members it will have, and the more benefits they can win at the bargaining table.
Social unionism also wants to promote the interests of its members, but it believes that what can be achieved society-wide, through coalition-building and political action, is far greater than what any single union can achieve on its own. Instead of increasing the gap between union and nonunion workers, social unionists want everyone to move up together as far as possible.