Michael Barone

It's not just Republicans who are unhappy with Obamacare. Labor union leaders have been complaining too.

In July, the presidents of the Teamsters, United Food Commercial Workers union and UNITE-HERE (combined membership: 2.9 million) wrote a letter to congressional Democrats saying that Obamacare will "destroy the very health and well-being of our members along with millions of other working Americans."

"We have a problem," they concluded. "You need to fix it."

Forget for a moment that organized labor supported Obamacare. The union leaders have arguably legitimate complaints.

Obamacare does indeed create incentives for employers to reduce the workweek below 30 hours. It also discourages the high-benefit "Cadillac plans" that unions have negotiated -- and that are one thing they can promise workers in organization drives.

Obamacare taxes premiums on non-profit, multi-employer union plans that cover, for example, workers in multiple small restaurants. And the people in these plans won't be eligible for subsidies available to policyholders in for-profit insurers.

The union leaders were understandably ticked at the "huge accommodation for the employer community -- extending the statutorily mandated 'December 31, 2013' deadline for the employer mandate and penalties."

Like many other Americans, they are angry that President Obama refused to fulfill his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law.

On a late Friday afternoon in September -- the same timing as the employer mandate delay in July -- the Obama administration denied the unions' request that workers with multi-employer health plans receive subsidies on the exchanges.

To which Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union, said he wanted the law "fixed, fixed, fixed" and, if not, "then I believe it needs to be repealed."

Consistent opponents of Obamacare might take satisfaction from these complaints. And they might observe that the unions backed legislation that tends to encourage union members to drop union plans and to prevent unions from attracting new members by promising Cadillac plans. They got what they deserved.

I take a somewhat different view. Over many decades, union leaders have supported legislation that extends to non-members benefits unions have secured for members.

They have consistently supported higher minimum wages -- arguably because they bump up (already higher) union wages -- ignoring the strong evidence that higher minimums reduce low-skill employment.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM