Labor Calling for Changes to Obamacare at Convention

The AFL-CIO is drafting a resolution calling for changes in the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health-care overhaul that has some labor leaders worrying it could endanger the health benefits of their members.

The resolution will be presented to the AFL-CIO convention today or tomorrow, according to Fred Redmond, a vice president with the United Steelworkers Union. The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, is holding its convention this week in Los Angeles.

Unions are concerned with provisions in the law backed by President Barack Obama that require employees under certain plans to pay a fee to maintain coverage. In addition, unions say multi-employer plans should be eligible for tax subsidies, a position at odds with the law.

“We want to offer some constructive suggestions to the president,” Redmond, who is also a member of the AFL-CIO executive council, said in an interview. “We’re walking a balance to make sure that our message to the president is not disrespectful and should not imply any lack of support for the plan.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the federation of 57 labor unions with 12 million members, called a provision in the health-care law that defines a full-time work week as 30 hours instead of the traditional 40, “something that no one intended.” It has led some employers to create jobs with 29 1/2 hours of work a week to avoid paying for health care.

Legislative Fixes

At a press briefing last month, Trumka said he has held meetings with White House officials over the law and would support legislation to fix what the unions perceive as problems.

The AFL-CIO resolution being drafted will target several specific provisions of the law such as the penalty for employers who don’t offer health care to workers, Redmond said.

“We think that the penalty of $2,000 for employers to pay per employee may not be enough to discourage employers from not offering health care,” Redmond said.

In a bid to head off the union effort, U.S. Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, this week introduced legislation that would make it illegal to provide subsides for certain existing health care plans.

The AFL-CIO is meeting through tomorrow with about 1,650 delegates and guests at the Los Angeles convention center.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at jefstathiou@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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