Labor payback can come in many forms. First, President Obama tried to pass the inappropriately named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that would eliminate basic rights of union members at the behest of union officials. More recently, the D.C. Circuit made it clear that Obama’s recess appointments were unconstitutional. His appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), even back in 2010, have been chosen to make sure that labor always wins. Not to mention that Obama just re-nominated the same people he unlawfully “recess” appointed.
The stage is now set for what might be President Obama’s biggest payback to labor yet.
The Wall Street Journal reports that labor unions, once very supportive of Obama’s healthcare reform plan, are now having second thoughts about the “reform.” ObamaCare requires more health insurance coverage than many employers currently provide. Under ObamaCare, families making up to 400 percent of the poverty level will receive some type of subsidy to get the necessary private insurance.
That’s where union officials come in, with their hands out. Multi-employer plans, run by labor unions, must also step up with greater health coverage, which is, of course, more expensive. And since union members are being offered a plan from their employer, via the union, those union members are not eligible for the federal subsidy. Instead, it falls on the union to improve the coverage that it offers.
Now, labor wants some cash thrown its way to make up the difference:
Top officers at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the AFL-CIO and other large labor groups plan to keep pressing the Obama administration to expand the federal subsidies to these jointly run plans, warning that unionized employers may otherwise drop coverage. A handful of unions say they already have examined whether it makes sense to shift workers off their current plans and onto private coverage subsidized by the government. But dropping insurance altogether would undermine a central point of joining a union, labor leaders say.
The Tampa Tribune has a simple message for the beggars in organized labor:
Welcome to the real world.
The insurance plans of nonunion employers face the same costs, but no one is contemplating providing them a break.
According to Fox News, Republicans in the Senate are prepared to stop any such attempt:
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is not ambiguous, in fact it is explicit, on this point,” the lawmakers wrote. “Any consideration of expanding access to subsidies therefore is not subject to regulation, but a change in the law.”
They cited one Congressional Research Service report that said employer-sponsored coverage would “generally” make an employee “ineligible to receive a premium subsidy.”
In one of the rare instances where labor needs to recognize financial realities, union officials face a tough decision that will either lead to cutting the bottom line or, likely, cutting members. As labor union member numbers continue to fall, costs for maintaining these multiemployer plans will continue to rise. Sheet Metal Workers Local 85 in Atlanta, profiled in the WSJ piece, will now have to pay 50 cents to $1 more per hour in member compensation in order to meet the new ObamaCare requirements.
The law is no obstacle for the Obama administration, but it remains to be seen if labor’s pleading for more money will succeed.