Tags: Healthcare Reform | unions | obamacare | well-being | workers

Unions to Democrats: Obamacare Will 'Destroy Health, Well-Being of Workers'

Image: Unions to Democrats: Obamacare Will 'Destroy Health, Well-Being of Workers'

Tuesday, 16 Jul 2013 02:34 PM

By Lisa Barron

Labor unions appear to be doing an about-face on Obamacare, with the heads of three major unions sending a letter to Democratic leaders in Congress warning that the law as it now stands could have dire consequences for workers.

The letter
, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, was written by James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Joseph Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; and Donald Taylor, president of UNITE-HERE.

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The union leaders stated that the Affordable Care Act would "shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class."

Pointing to the employer mandate that requires businesses to provide health coverage to employees working more than 30 hours a week, the union leaders said, "Numerous employers have begun to cut workers' hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is twofold: Fewer hours mean less pay while also losing our current health benefits."

"We have a problem," they wrote, and "you need to fix it."

The tough rhetoric from the usual supporters of President Barack Obama comes as his signature healthcare program is floundering before its rollout this year.

The administration has already delayed several key aspects of the law, including the employer mandate, which required companies with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance or pay a fine.

The union bosses also noted that millions of workers are covered by nonprofit health plans known as Taft-Hartley plans, which "have been built over decades by working men and women" and that "under the ACA as interpreted by the administration, our employees will be treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens."

"As such," they added, "many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans. "

The three labor leaders concluded, "We can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and well-being of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans."

Avik Roy, author of the Forbes blog The Apothecary, pointed out that they are not the only union leaders who have been critical of Obamacare.

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Roy said that Kinsey Robinson, president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, said in April that their concerns "have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored" and that "in the rush to achieve its passage, many of the act's provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer-sponsored coverage could keep it."

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