September 5 2013

Surprise! Surprise, Mr. Trumpka!

Patrice J. Lee

The AFL-CIO leader didn't expect ObamaCare to be like this.

This week we reported on unions’ angst with ObamaCare and their fears of its potential negative impact on workers. They fear healthcare plans for union workers would be taxed to help fund ObamaCare and that employers might reduce worker hours to avoid a penalty for not providing healthcare.

Now the head union boss, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO , is coming clean that their worries are coming true. Speaking at a Washington, D.C., event last week Trumka admitted he didn’t see it coming that employers would actually reduce worker hours:

“That is obviously something that no one intended. No one intended the act to result in people working fewer hours just so they [employers] don’t have to pay for healthcare. So that’s something that needs to be addressed. Is that an issue? Yeah that’s an issue.”

Is that an issue? As we young folk say “Ya think?”

Apparently, employers from movie theater chains to fast-food restaurants to local governments are restructuring their workforce to only give workers 29.5 hours of work each week. The healthcare law requires that employers provide coverage if workers work 30 hours or more. The overall impact pushed the average work week down to a six-month low in the month of July.

Many of these same workers spent last week staging protests to double the federal minimum wage rate, but what good is a higher wage if your hours are cut each week?

This issue of cutting hours is hitting low-skill jobs for now, but what happens when the affects of ObamaCare creep up to middle and high-skill, white collar workers? Perhaps then we’ll see more Americans not only disapprove of ObamaCare but be willing to do something about it. Of course, the difference is that middle- and high-skill workers tend to be salaried so cutting their hours will be more complicated, but employers will find ways to shift more of the healthcare cost burden to workers. This is what we can look forward to thanks to mandated healthcare.

Those on the left who like to introduce broad, sweeping federal legislation that’s meant to be a cure-all for complex social and economic issues, often ignore an important concept: the law of unintended consequences. New laws have rippling effects that may not be foreseeable and in this case, it’s a hugely negative impact on the workforce. What we may be on the precipice of is a surge in underemployment where American workers are forced to work less hours than they desire making life more difficult and becoming a stumbling block to economic growth.

When crafting ObamaCare, the President and bill architects wrongly assumed that businesses would suck up the higher costs of providing healthcare to workers for whom who they didn’t have to provide it prior. That’s a misread of the cost-benefit analysis employers consider when hiring workers.

It may be surprising to the biggest union boss, but it’s not surprising to most Americans. According to Gallup half of Americans disapprove of ObamaCare and 44 percent say that it will make the healthcare situation worse. The majority of Americans may not boast an Ivy League pedigree like the social engineers that schemed up this law, but they have enough common sense to know when something is a bad deal.

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