Unions to Obamacare: We Don't Want You


Obamacare was passed just over three years ago. At the time, the unions were some of its biggest supporters — but the drumbeat has changed.

In 2009, the Teamsters, one of the largest and most influential labor unions, led a wholehearted campaign to support healthcare reform in an "unprecedented union effort." They encouraged their members to take action, contact their legislators, and put pressure on them for the new healthcare bill.

The result? They got exactly what they wanted. In a statement, the Teamsters applauded the passage of Obamacare. In return for their support (and millions in campaign donations), President Barack Obama promised tax exemptions from the new law to the powerful union.

Everything seemed to work out perfectly, until the Teamsters realized what they had supported. Last week, the union suddenly understood the mistake they had made. In a harshly critical letter to congressional Democratic leaders, the Teamsters and two other large unions criticized the law's "perverse incentives" and the administration's "stone wall" response.

One of their chief complaints was the incentive Obamacare creates to cut employees' hours. The current law mandates that employers provide health insurance to all employees working over 30 hours a week. In order to avoid the stiff penalties, companies instead chose to cut hours, so workers lost both income and health benefits.

After complaints from businesses, the Obama administration surprisingly chose to delay this employer mandate. Though this decision essentially kicked the can down the road, it was a sign that implementation of the leviathan of regulations is encountering some trouble. This is further evident in the Department of Health and Human Services's desperate attempt to convince the NFL and NBA to promote the new law. The proposal was quickly rebuffed by the leagues.

Public opinion on Obamacare has been changing as well, as people begin to notice the massive tax increases that will hit their wallets. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds the law's unpopularity at a new high. A shocking 49% of Americans think the law is a bad idea, compared to only 37% of Americans who think the opposite.

House Republicans have tried to seize this momentum, but to no avail. With at least 39 separate votes to repeal, defund, or hinder Obamacare, they have succeeded in some small modifications to scale back the law. This stems from a long-standing conservative criticism of the law's incentives. In January 2011, Brian Blase and Paul L. Winfree of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, predicted exactly what is happening today" the law will "disrupt existing employer-based coverage and create new distortions in the health insurance market."

The impossible has happened. For once, the unions have begun to echo what conservatives have argued for years. Now that we all agree "the unintended consequences of the ACA are severe," can we focus on replacing the law?