Top Firefighters' Union Supports Biden, Opposes Medicare for All

IAFF says they would find it difficult to support a candidate who wants to eliminate private insurance

July 29, 2019

One of the leading unions representing firefighters throughout the United States has come out against Medicare for All ahead of the second Democratic debate.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) began circulating a letter last week to Democratic presidential candidates voicing the union's concerns that Medicare for All proposals would jeopardize their memberships' current health care plans. The letter was signed by Harold Schaitberger, president of the IAFF.

"The IAFF cannot support the notion that our members and the millions of hard-working Americans who have union-negotiated, employer-provided healthcare should be forced to give it away in favor of a government-run program," the letter states.

"The elimination of employer-based insurance in favor of a Medicare-for-all or government-run single-payer proposal is a bad idea that punishes working families who have secured quality healthcare," the letter continues. "Those with employer-provided healthcare should not be disadvantaged in order to create a government option."

Boasting a membership of over 300,000 firefighters, the IAFF operates one of the most active political action committees on the national level. It contributed over $6 million to Democratic and Republican politicians in 2018. At the presidential level, the labor union has traditionally supported Democratic presidential candidates and quickly endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, a longtime ally of the union, after he announced his presidential campaign earlier this year.

As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare for this week's 2nd debate, Schaitberger's letter also indicates that some progressive policies pushed by leading candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) have not gained the union's support. Each candidate's health care proposal is expected to draw a significant amount of attention during the debate.

"We would find it difficult to support any candidate" who supports replacing employer-provided health care with government-run health care, the letter warns.

The Medicare for All plans supported by Harris, Sanders, and Warren all call for a transition for those who have employer-sponsored health care plans to government-administered coverage. Biden's recently released healthcare plan proposes creating a public option for individuals without completely eliminating private insurance.

According to an analysis by NBC News following the 2016 election, 50 percent of IAFF membership voted for Donald Trump while only 27 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2008 and 2012, the membership by a narrow margin supported President Obama over his Republican challengers. After the polling results were published, Schaitberger suggested he was not surprised by the findings as he believed the national Democratic Party's focus on identity and cultural issues turned off his membership in the 2016 general election.