Labor Unions in Panic over Obamacare


July 17, 2013



Union bosses are not happy about Obamacare. Last week, the leaders of three major U.S. unions, including James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters, sent a scathing open letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leaders in Congress.  They warn that if the law does not change, Obamacare will “destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”


Clearly they feel betrayed. Here is the first paragraph of their letter:

“When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

They claim that the unions put boots on the ground to secure the Democrat’s vision of affordable health care, but “Now this vision has come back to haunt us.” It’s such a great letter, that I have included it below.

That’s not all. A few months ago, labor unions, including the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO, suddenly did the math on the coming cost of insurance premiums under Obamacare and didn’t like the high prices they discovered.  So they asked Congress to expand federal taxpayer-funded premium subsidies to employer-sponsored coverage received solely by lower-income workers in labor unions.

In short, they are seeking special treatment to raid the pockets of taxpayers who would get no subsidies to pay for the price hikes. Current ACA law says premium subsidies are solely for those in the state-established government exchanges. The unions worry that unionized employers, to reduce costs, will drop current insurance plans and force them into the narrow network policies of the government exchanges. They should have been thinking about this in 2009 before the law was passed.

Let’s recall the labor union love fest with Obamacare in 2009.

In July 2009, the Teamsters announced a vigorous campaign for health care reform, including a website ( – no longer active) and events during Congress’ August recess. Teamsters President James Hoffa then said something quite different than today. 

“I am personally urging Teamsters local unions to get out there and support President Obama’s efforts to fix our broken health-care system. This is an unprecedented effort on our part.”

In August 2009, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney put out a memo against conservative groups that sent people to town halls to criticize members of Congress for supporting the ACA. The memo stated, “Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it.”

But now, labor unions are very worried. One has even called for a repeal of the law. To get the full emotional flavor of their angst and appeal, please read the open letter from the three major labor unions below.

Dear Leader Reid and Leader Pelosi:

When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.

Like millions of other Americans, our members are front-line workers in the American economy. We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. We have also been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.

Now this vision has come back to haunt us.

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. This is especially stinging because other stakeholders have repeatedly received successful interpretations for their respective grievances. Most disconcerting of course is last week’s huge accommodation for the employer community—extending the statutorily mandated “December 31, 2013” deadline for the employer mandate and penalties.

Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios:

First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits. Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. These non-profit plans are governed jointly by unions and companies under the Taft-Hartley Act. Our health plans have been built over decades by working men and women. Under the ACA as interpreted by the Administration, our employees will treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans.

And finally, even though non-profit plans like ours won’t receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they’ll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.

On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.

We believe that there are common-sense corrections that can be made within the existing statute that will allow our members to continue to keep their current health plans and benefits just as you and the President pledged. Unless changes are made, however, that promise is hollow.

We continue to stand behind real health care reform, but the 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.

James P. Hoffa
General President
International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Joseph Hansen
International President

D. Taylor

In short, we have an unexpected ally in our fight to repeal the law as it stands. It’s true. The unions still support universal coverage. But they didn’t figure out that once their efforts to give the government control over health care were accomplished, the administration wouldn’t need them anymore. Or that all promises would be off. We can hope that when this reality really sinks in, universal coverage won’t continue to be a goal of labor unions.

Thank you for supporting CCHF and health freedom,


Twila Brase
President and Co-founder