Earlier this month I wrote about the California Nurse’s Association (CNA) push for single payer in the state. When the bill, known as SB562, was shelved by Speaker Anthony Rendon because of a) excessive costs and b) no plan to pay for it, the union accused him of stabbing them in the back. Rendon received death threats and Democrats in the California Assembly united to demand single payer proponents stop acting like bullies. They didn’t single out the CNA but everyone knows that is who they meant. Yesterday, the Intercept reported that even other members of the coalition formed to support single payer in California are turning against CNA:
One labor group, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, is in active discussions with its executive board to withdraw from Healthy California’s steering committee, according to its president, Sal Rosselli. At least two additional steering committee members, the California Federation of Teachers and Unite Here, may also be on the outs, according to sources familiar with their planning. And others are stepping outside the coalition to engage with one another and devise how to move forward separately…
Elizabeth Sholes is a senior official with California Church IMPACT, the 1.5 million-member policy arm of the California Council of Churches, which is currently part of the coalition, and has been advocating single payer for decades. “CNA could do the work needed to craft a decent bill with a good proposal for funding but have chosen the path of faux outrage and destruction instead. We were betrayed by CNA and people desperate for health care were abandoned,” said Sholes, who is known around the Capitol as “the Church Lady.”
The single-payer movement, said Sholes, is merely being used as a weapon in intraparty politics, calling the CNA strategy “a political hit against Dems whom the CNA wishes to replace with Bernie Sanders supporters.”
There’s a lot more in the piece but basically, a lot of people, even people who really want to see single payer happen, are sick of the CNA leadership treating moderate Democrats like, well, like they are Republicans. Jim Araby, a union member and part of the coalition created to pass the bill, tells the Intercept, “They’ve taken the very important newfound energy in politics, anxiety and fear and hate around Trump, and tried to position it against the wrong villain.”
Monday, Politico reported the conflict between the Nurses’ Union is one major piece of an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party in the state, one that mirrors the division between Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters in last year’s election:
The California Nurses Association and other single-payer advocates descended on the Capitol, waving signs with Rendon’s name printed on a knife buried in the back of the California bear. Sanders himself admonished Rendon, and the nurses union said it planned to air radio ads targeting the Democratic speaker.
“Corporate Dems: Don’t underestimate grassroots taking action on #SinglePayer,” RoseAnn DeMoro, head of the nurses union, said on Twitter.
The episode left a deflating mark on the progressive movement’s ranks across the country.
“It’s more than a disappointment, watching how it plays out there in California,” said Donna Smith, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.
As I pointed out before, if single payer can’t pass in California where Democrats have complete control, it probably can’t pass anywhere. Even worse for Dems, if the only result of trying to pass it is a divided party, it’s a sign that there could be a serious downside to even trying.