Franchise Owners Go to Washington to Plead for Obamacare Relief

Tuesday, 17 Sep 2013 05:52 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Franchise restaurant owners have begun a lobby effort on Capitol Hill to persuade lawmakers to tweak Obamacare so that the full-time status requiring healthcare benefits is raised from 30 hours a week to 40.

More than 300 businessmen, making their case to lawmakers on Monday, argued the change could prevent them from having to slash their workers' hours, The Hill reported Tuesday.

The new law requires big employers to provide insurance to anyone who works at least 30 hours a week, or pay a penalty.

"Employees won’t have the hours they need, and they won’t get employer-sponsored healthcare, either," said Steve Caldeira, president and CEO of the International Franchise Association.

"[Franchisees] are dealing with high commodity costs, high energy prices, higher taxes from the 'fiscal-cliff' deal, and now they are trying to work through Obamacare," he said.

Bills supported by the International Franchise Association include the Save American Workers Act, sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), and the Forty Hours is Full Time Act, offered in the House by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and in the Senate by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

The franchise trade group has also launched a website, 40hoursisfulltime.com, to encourage visitors to lobby their lawmakers on the full-time threshold.

"This is about taking part-time workers who were at 32 hours, 34 hours per week and limiting their work," said Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association.

"You still have to cover the shifts," DeFife said, predicting that business owners would limit employee hours in favor of hiring other part-timers. "There’s an additional cost for each worker you bring on."

DeFife said the restaurant trade group has been lobbying on the 30-hour issue for more than two years. The group is also part of the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition, or E-Flex.

Also supporting a redefinition of a full-time worker for the purpose of health insurance are the Retail Leaders Industry Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

International Franchise Association members say they’re not supporting the movement to defund Obamacare, but merely wish to change the law to allow for greater flexibility in hiring part-time help.

"We didn’t support the bill, but the bill became law," said Caldeira. "So our job now is to mitigate the most costly, burdensome and onerous aspects of the law for our members."

Kevin Maher, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, also attempted a bipartisan appeal to congressmen.

"We want to let Democrats know that we don’t want to repeal Obamacare," he said. "We want to let Republicans know that this is the law, and we need to make it workable for business."

The trade groups say they believe the year-long postponement of the law’s provision should give them enough time to lobby for change.

"This 30-hour issue is beginning to resonate on both sides of the aisle," said Neil Trautwein, vice president for the National Retail Federation. "Since it has been pushed off now for more than a year, it could mature before the end of this year, and we could increase pressure on the issue."



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