Obamacare Blasted by Uber-Lefty Union Unite Here in "Internal" Report

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently made headlines when he blasted the infamous Koch brothers as "un-American" for bankrolling anti-Obamacare ads that have kept fact-checkers in clover debunking them.

But criticism of the Affordable Care Act comes not just from the far-right Koch brothers

It comes from the left as well, including from the union Unite Here, which according to its website represents "workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries."

Last week, Nevada newshound Jon Ralston made public the previously unpublished Unite Here report, "The Irony of Obamacare: Making Inequality Worse."

The study blasts Obamacare for a "trillion dollar transfer of wealth" to insurance companies, as employers cut their employees' hours and pay, and union-based health plans are "strangled" into non-existence.

Conservative sites have gone wild with the UH publication, while traditional defenders of Obamacare have been slow to respond.

Via email, Ralston would not discuss his source for the report. But he explained that it was sent by Unite Here to fellow labor leaders with a cover letter by UH president Don Taylor, also posted on the Ralston Reports blog.

The journalist uploaded both documents to his site on March 7. Since then, the story's gone viral -- at least on the right -- and has been picked up by FrontPage Mag, National Review Online, and Fox News, among other conservative outlets.

"I'm not surprised at all that conservatives are all over every negative thing this union does on Obamacare," Ralston wrote in response to my inquiry. "It gives them fodder to say all criticism is not partisan."

Unite Here spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel confirmed that the report was legit.

"It was an internal document, which is why it's not posted on our site," she stated in an e-mail earlier today, "but I can verify that it is ours."

She said the union would be posting the report to its own site sometime today, "given the wide distribution" it's already received.

(As this blog went to press, Strassel sent me a link to the report, just published on the UH site.)

Meanwhile, the report has become a talking point for those in the anti-Obamacare camp.

The study acknowledges that millions of Americans will benefit from the ACA, but it objects to aspects of the law that force union health care packages to the sidelines, while enriching insurance companies.

"[T]he Administration's own signature healthcare victory poses one of the most immediate challenges to redressing inequality," the report states. "Yes, the Affordable Care Act will help many more Americans gain some health insurance coverage, a significant step forward for equality. At the same time, without smart fixes, the ACA threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage."

One irony the right will not be talking about: the Obamacare plan Unite Here criticizes is hardly the "socialism" of Tea Party fantasies.

"The Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal government will spend at least $965 billion in subsidies to make coverage purchased through the new online marketplaces affordable," reads the report. "Nearly all of that money will go directly to health insurance companies, one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in history."

Unite Here claims insurance companies have already gotten richer, stating that, "the average share prices of the top 5 for profits -- Wellpoint, United, Aetna, Cigna, Humana -- have more than doubled since the March 23, 2010 passage of the ACA."

The report predicts that Obamacare will result in a reduction in wages and fewer jobs, as small businesses keep their employee rolls low on purpose, so as to avoid "the ACA's requirement that employers with more than 50 full time employees provide coverage for everyone working more than 30 hours per week."

Regarding income inequality, the union admits that ,"People in the bottom two tenths of the income distribution would see average gains of 5.3% and 7.2% from the ACA."

However, families a step or two up the ladder, "would suffer significant income declines to achieve these gains, " while, "the top ten percent would give up the smallest percentage of income."

The report comments that, "Only in Washington could asking the bottom of the middle class to finance health care for the poorest families be seen as reducing inequality."

Did Unite Here really want this report kept "internal"? Did the union assume the document would be leaked to the press?

Certainly, the cover letter from UH president Don Taylor reads as if he intended it to be seen by a wider audience.

It reads, in part:

"Believe me; I enter this entire debate about the consequences of the ACA with a deep reluctance. Unite Here was the first union to endorse then Senator Obama. We support the addition of healthcare to millions of Americans. Yet facts are facts, and Obamacare will cost our members the equivalent of a significant pay cut to keep their hard-won benefits."

Unite Here, which was behind the anti-Joe Arpaio effort Adios Arpaio in 2012, has taken issue with the Obama administration on other issues, most notably immigration, where the union has loudly objected to President Obama's deportation policy.

Got a tip for The Bastard? Send it to: Stephen Lemons.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Stephen Lemons on Twitter at @StephenLemons.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.