Top labor leader Sara Nelson links abortion rights to fight against fascism
Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants union, CWA and a leading figure in the AFL-CIO says that the abortion rights issue is not just another of a long list of concerns but a key economic issue facing workers. | Wikipedia (CC)

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson says abortion rights are critical in a necessary fight against fascism and a key economic issue that is facing voters on November 8.

Known for her outspoken views against corporate greed and on other issues, Nelson now links the fight to restore the constitutional right to abortion to the fights for Medicare For All and against right-wing fascism in the U.S.

“We have to understand as the working class, that if we are not on top of this” abortion issue “we are undermining our ability to hold capital accountable,” Nelson declared in a late-October town hall organized by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer National Health Care.

“We can’t just talk about this as another issue on the ballot,” she elaborated about the court’s anti-abortion ruling, deleting the 49-year-old constitutional right to an abortion.

“This is an attack on our very right to organize, an attack on our ability to build power for the working class, to put a check on unchecked capitalism that is controlling our politics, sending us on the road to fascism. It is fundamental that we fight with everything that we have for the rights of women to make their own decisions in their own lives,” she said in a statement the single-payer group posted on its website.

Speakers on the panel discussed labor’s campaign for single payer, otherwise known as Medicare For All, and how single-payer would cover abortion, too—despite the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling outlawing the constitutional right to abortion. They then strategized on what workers, particularly women workers, could do to fight back.

The town hall also introduced a tool kit, created by union advocates of Medicare For All, for activists to use. Led by National Nurses United, almost 20 unions support or actively campaign for single-payer.

Women workers must take the lead, Nelson said, as dominant males, notably CEOs, too often take women for granted, shunt them into second-class status, and disregard women’s views and analyses even though “we fix everything…we clean up the messes” of society.

Now women must speak out and demand people clean up the mess the court’s Republican-named court majority made of women’s rights, and could make of worker’s rights and other rights, too. And corporations’ allies on the political right could make matters worse.

“It’s really time to make people uncomfortable,” Nelson declared.

Cannot be afraid

“Corporations have spoken out on other social issues, and we cannot be afraid as women to demand they speak out on this, too.”

Single-payer advocates face an uphill battle against corporate-financed Republicans, and against some Democrats too who have been bought and paid for by campaign contributions from health insurers, the hospital lobby, and Big Pharma.

In the 116th Congress, their pressure forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to tell committee chairs to hold hearings in 2019 on Medicare For All, but let it go no further than those hearings.

Knowing it would lose, Pelosi barred a floor vote. President Joe Biden has also said he dislikes single payer, preferring instead to improve the Affordable Care Act along with a “public option” that would be weaker than Medicare for All. Of course, the big fight now is to prevent the election of Republicans determined to destroy Medicare entirely from gaining majorities in the House and Senate in two weeks.

Most of Nelson’s presentation was blistering and deserved criticism of corporate male dominance. As she put it, women are left to clean up the messes the men make.

Pointedly including the male CEOs of all the nation’s airlines, Nelson said they refuse to speak out on abortion. She contacted each, demanding their firms publicly stand up for women workers and customers and denounce the abortion ban. Two wrote her back saying they would communicate their stand to their workers. The rest were silent.

Rich women will still be able to get abortions, despite the court’s ruling, Nelson said. “Other women will die,” unless Congress approves legislation restoring the right.

“We need to put real pressure on these corporations that say they want to sell airplane tickets to women, that say they want to sell coffee to women,” and that want to provide women with goods and services, she said. Corporations must publicly support the right to abortion and must take other concrete moves for women’s equality, too—such as really opening more supply chain jobs to women.

Staying silent or simply sending letters to their workers “is bullshit,” Nelson said.

“We have to call out these corporations to speak out to say this (decision) is going to harm their business” and their customers. “We have to make people really, really, really uncomfortable.”

Flight attendants, like herself, are trained to deal with emergencies, Nelson noted, with a key part of the training being how to prevent them in the first place. “These corporations, with their silence, are adding to the emergencies.”

The session, which other unionists addressed, also introduced the toolkit. It includes union-sponsored pro-single-payer state and local resolutions, a bargaining guide on the issue the News Guild-CWA prepared, and information on how to raise the issue within unions.

There’s also a special edition of the single-payer group’s newsletter with prior reproductive justice articles and resources, slides showing the value of single-payer, and a calculator of savings per person from adopting single-payer.

The tool kit is at


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.