Sara Nelson is President of the AFA-CWA, flight attendants union with 50,000 members and part of the national Communications Workers of America. She’s an activist in the left wing of the Democratic Party, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and has been called ‘the most powerful flight attendant in America’ as a rising star in the labor movement.
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) December 20, 2019
As I pointed out on twitter at the time these aren’t selfies but they were paid for, by her members, through the Communications Workers of America.
It’s no surprise that Nelson has come out attacking the President on MSNBC over coronavirus.
.@FlyingWithSara tells @Lawrence that President Donald Trump is not taking the Coronavirus outbreak seriously and that he is putting "my members at risk, my members' jobs at risk and the economy at risk."https://t.co/gMVb1g3obw pic.twitter.com/fYJk0bv3wE
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) March 7, 2020
Regular readers know that I’m no defender of the President or this administration, but Nelson really misses the mark.
To be sure the CDC performed poorly in the early days of the virus and the President’s public statements have seemed to understate the risk posed by COVID-19.
Nelson complains that the Obama administration made her feel important in 2014 during the scare over Ebola, and the Trump administration isn’t consulting her.
Nelson recalled to host Lawrence O’Donnell how, under Obama’s “Ebola czar” Ronald Klain, she and other industry leaders were repeatedly brought together to discuss action both on the front lines and in the U.S.
But, with the Trump White House amid the coronavirus outbreak, she said, “we can’t even talk here about what we can do in a coordinated way, with good information in this country, to be able to contain this.”
She says that the airlines are among the safest places right now, “going to the airport and getting on planes may be one of your safest public locations,” though in fact stepped up cleaning varies significantly by airline and people are in close proximity to each other except when load factors drop because people aren’t flying.
No doubt flying entails less exposure to other peoples’ germs than taking the New York subway. However most public transit riders are local while flying carries people from one region (with greater infection risk) to another (which may have less). I haven’t cancelled any trips yet, but will make calls on each based on best available information at the time.
Regardless of the helpfulness of statements by the President, responsibility for the response to coronavirus really doesn’t fall at his feet. Contrary to popular belief the Trump administration has not cut the budget of the CDC. Sadly party affiliation is a strong predictor of how serious someone believes coronavirus could get.
At this point containment still matters to slow the spread because our health care system isn’t ready to treat the number of patients who could need hospitalization in medium-risk scenarios. There aren’t enough masks. There aren’t enough ventilators. There aren’t enough beds. The last thing we need to do is politicize this. There will be plenty of time for recriminations later.
To be sure coronavirus fears may already be pushing the U.S. into recession, which may advantage the democratic challenger in November. Anyone who pushes political narratives around the virus at this point, though, is doing a disservice to the country. And Nelson is doing a disservice to her members.