Unions Turn on Obamacare

Labor leader: president's claims about keeping insurance 'simply not true’


Three unions that spent more than $18 million to help Democrats during the 2012 campaign expressed concerns that Obamacare’s implementation will threaten worker benefits, with one group even calling for its repeal, according to the Hill. Labor leaders, including those who backed healthcare reform, accused President Barack Obama of deceiving them while he campaigned for the unpopular law in 2009.

[United Food and Commercial Workers] President Joe Hansen homed in on the president’s speech at the 2009 AFL-CIO convention. Obama at the time said union members could keep their insurance under the law, but Hansen writes "that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers."

Republicans have long attacked Obama’s promise that "nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor." But the fact that unions are now noting it as well is a clear sign that supporters of the law are growing anxious about the law’s implementation.

Many UFCW members have what are known as multi-employer or Taft-Hartley plans. According to the administration’s analysis of the Affordable Care Act, the law does not provide tax subsidies for the roughly 20 million people covered by the plans. Union officials argue that interpretation could force their members to change their insurance and accept more expensive and perhaps worse coverage in the state-run exchanges.

"You can’t have the same quality healthcare that you had before, despite what the president said," Hansen told the Hill. "Now what’s going to happen is everybody is going to have to go to private for-profit insurance companies. We just don’t think that’s right. ... We just want to keep what we already have and what we bought at tremendous cost."

Hansen also warned that if workers see their healthcare benefits recede, the Democrats could pay the price in 2014. The UFCW spent nearly $11 million on the 2012 election, including about $2 million in direct contributions to Democratic candidates.

UFCW is not the only Obama ally to oppose Obama’s signature reform. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers called for "repeal or complete reform," while UNITE HERE voiced discontent with the law.

UNITE HERE, which represents 270,000 hotel workers and spent $7.4 million on the election, has also broken with Obama on his nomination of billionaire Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary. The union began protesting outside her company’s Chicago headquarters on Tuesday—two day before Pritzker’s confirmation hearing.