Ryan Williams

In July, RAP – funded and staffed by the United Food and Commercial Workers affiliate the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) – was awarded $115,000 to enroll residents in New York City. ROC will receive government funding for the same purpose, but the exact dollar amount has not yet been publicly disclosed.

That said, ROC is wasting no time getting ready. According to its website, ROC is hiring navigators who have “demonstrated commitment to furthering workers’ rights and empowerment” and have “passion, experience and effectiveness in working towards the advancement of racial, social and economic justice.” Nowhere in the administration’s definition of navigators does it make any mention of these subjective qualities. Navigators are instructed to only offer general guidance, restricted from even recommending one health insurer or plan over another. But labor groups have capitalized on various loopholes in the law allowing them to manipulate the loosely-defined program to meet their own special interests (and apparently use undocumented immigrants to do so).

Before welcoming ROC into the ALF-CIO in September, union leader Richard Trumka openly gushed that ROC is the model for future organizing efforts. Apparently that model includes taxpayers subsidizing special interest groups. Apart from acting as a navigator, ROC has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Center for Disease Control and other government agencies to advance its ownagenda. Now other worker centers like RAP and Farmworkers for Justice – which received $777,468 in federal navigator funding – will join ROC in using public dollars for outreach that is ultimately political and entirely self-serving.

Although members of Congress may disagree on the merits of Obamacare, hopefully they can agree that implementing the new law will only be more difficult – and ethicly flawed – if worker centers hijack enrollment as a way to conduct membership drives.

Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams is a senior vice president at FP1 Strategies, a Washington based public affairs, advertising, grassroots and media relations firm.