Last week, the Supreme Court sided 6-3 with the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, ruling the law was written with the intent to provide subsidies through federal exchanges. To put it lightly, conservatives are less than thrilled.
But in our disappointment, let’s not forget that the subsidies are just one problematic element of many found in the 20,000-page law. While Congress may not be able to undo the Court’s recent ruling, that doesn’t mean they can’t address another serious issue with the Affordable Care Act: the employer mandate that defines a full-time workweek as 30 hours.
The youth unemployment rate is currently 13.6%, meaning nearly one out of every seven people between the ages of 18 and 29 are out of work. Of those fortunate enough to be employed, many see their work hours cut.
The Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate requires businesses who employ 50 or more full-time workers to insure all of their employees. While this requirement may be well-intended, its long-term economic consequences will be devastating. As the mandate is set to take effect in 2016, many businesses are already choosing between limiting their staff or cutting individual work-hours.
It’s estimated that 2.6 million Americans making under $30,000 a year are at risk of having their hours or wages cut. Of those 2.6 million, 60 percent of those people are between the ages of 19 and 34.
Take the food industry, for example, where the average employee age is 28 years old. Between wait staff, hostesses, busboys, line cooks, dishwashers, and others, restaurants easily reach staffs of over 50 employees with diverse skill sets. This being the case, restaurant owners – many of whom see thin profit margins already – have limited options and are forced to cut hours, reducing the size of people’s paychecks.
Because so many young people work in the food industry, they are being disproportionately clobbered by this provision. And that’s just in the restaurant industry. Retail stores and other business sectors face the brunt of the provision, too.
Forever 21 is one of the largest private employers in the country. Less than two years ago, in preparation for the employer mandate to kick in, the company announced its plans to reduce worker hours. Although the organization denied these cuts were directly related to the 30-hour provision, Forever 21 planned to transition some workers to 29.5 hours a week or less.
This mandate’s burden is clearly falling hardest on young people who are already experiencing the difficulty of finding gainful employment. But there is good news. Right now, Congress has the ability to vastly improve our generation’s opportunity to work by restoring the 40-hour workweek.
Specifically, the Senate should immediately consider the House-passed Save American Workers Act that changes the threshold of full-time employment from 30 hours per week to 40 hours. The House of Representatives passed this bipartisan bill in January, and now it’s up to the Senate to follow suit. This simple fix would make an enormous difference for young people desperately looking to advance in their careers.
Being employed, whether it’s waiting tables or performing an entry-level desk job, provides a young person with necessary income, crucial career development, and most importantly, a sense of pride and self-worth. Restoring the 40-hour work week should be the simple starting point of a larger conversation about how to help our generation’s job crisis.