A lot of the media coverage of the Verizon union worker strike has overlooked the root cause of the dispute between management and labor: the increased cost of health care under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Union workers called a strike after Verizon asked them to cover the price of their health care premiums. According to Verizon’s statement to employees, Obamacare tax hikes forced the company to pass on the extra cost to workers:
Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an excise tax will be levied on healthcare plans with very generous plan design components (so-called “Cadillac plans”). . . . This excise tax is projected to cost the company as much as $200 million in 2018 when the tax is imposed; however, Verizon is required to account for this cost now. Accordingly, we will need to modify plan designs to avoid the impact of this tax.
Now union workers, who campaigned in favor of Obamacare just a few years ago, are ironically finding themselves victims of its policies, Rob Bluey writes:
But both the IBEW and the CWA, like the vast majority of Big Labor, supported President Obama’s push for health care “reform.” The two unions did their part to bring about a law that increased the health care costs of one of their members’ largest employers, and are now furious that they’re being asked to shoulder some of that burden.
True, both the IBEW and the CWA opposed the Cadillac tax specifically. But its eventual inclusion in the final bill did not stop them from supporting the legislation. “While the unions would like to see the measure stripped in that process,” the Associated Press reported, CWA President Larry Cohen “said he was not prepared to threaten to withdraw the CWA’s support for the overall health care measure if the tax stays in place.”
But is this just the beginning of a self-created nightmare for union workers? As Big Labor’s power in the private sector continues to weaken, and companies start to feel the financial burden of Obamacare, more and more union workers might be asked to help shoulder some of the expense of their “Cadillac plans.” In other words, get ready for a lot more strikes.