Leaders of three major unions wrote a remarkably blunt letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on July 11 demanding that they help fix sections of Obamacare that could hurt union members’ healthcare coverage.
“[W]e voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it,” said the joint letter, which was signed by Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, United Food and Commercial Worker President Joseph Hansen, and Unite Here President Donald “D” Taylor.
The letter reflects the union leaders’ mounting frustration over Obamacare’s impact on multi-employer health plans, which many unions provide for their members.
The plans are organized as nonprofits and under Obamacare’s structure get no subsidies and are subject to financial penalties. That increases the cost of the programs and, with it, the possibility that many employers will pull out of them.
In addition, Obamacare gives employers an incentive to cut workers’ hours to below 30 a week, which could also result in many union rank-and-file losing their coverage.
Union leaders, who initially backed Obamacare enthusiastically, had assumed the president would address their concerns by now. Instead he has snubbed them.
The problem from the administration’s perspective is the changes Big Labor wants would cause the law’s already soaring costs to go even higher.
“Since the ACA was enacted, we have been bringing our deep concerns to the Administration, seeking reasonable regulatory interpretations to the statute that would help prevent the destruction of non-profit health plans. As you both know first-hand, our persuasive arguments have been disregarded and met with a stone wall by the White House and the pertinent agencies,” the three wrote.
This is “especially stinging,” they note, because the administration recently rescinded the law’s employer mandate at the request of the business community.
Labor leaders are now trying to pressure Democratic lawmakers to act on their behalf with the administration.
“When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act, you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat,” the union leaders note.
The letter concludes: “[T]he law as it stands will hurt millions of Americans including the members of our respective unions. We are looking to you to make sure these changes are made.”
For more on Big Labor’s healthcare angst, see my column, “Unions having second thoughts about Obamacare.”