Health Care Push a Boon to Big Labor; Union Ranks Due to Swell with Legions of Medical Workers

Article excerpt


In the 2008 elections, labor unions supported Democratic candidates in a big way - to the tune of $400 million, in fact. And few benefited more from union largesse than Barack Obama - the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) alone contributed millions to Team Hope and gave of sweat and time as well. On Oct. 27, 2008, the SEIU bragged publicly:

We have 3,000 SEIU members, staff and local leaders off the job and in the field working on the campaign. Nurses, janitors, child care providers and other workers are volunteering after work and on weekends to ensure Barack Obama, Joe Biden and pro-working family candidates win on Election Day.

Mr. Obama knew where his bread was buttered and to whom he would owe his presidency, promising on the campaign trail:

We're ready to play offense for organized labor. It's time we had a president who didn't choke saying the word 'union.' A president who strengthens our unions by letting them do what they do best: organize our workers.

And President Obama has indeed gone to bat time and again for his union masters. He has championed card check legislation, which would curtail secret balloting in union elections - making it easier for labor to organize and intimidate.

But perhaps Mr. Obama's greatest flourish is how he has managed to repay his labor suzerains while simultaneously consummating the long-held liberal dream of national health care. For the recently passed health care bill is both a large step in the direction of universal health care and a conglomerate of sweet deals, actual and potential, short-term and long-, for organized labor.

First there was the agreement between administration and labor officials that the excise tax on high-end or Cadillac health plans would not extend to plans covered under union contracts until 2018 - giving labor another eight years to weasel out of the tax altogether. In the meantime, the exemption will save union employees an estimated $60 billion.

Then there is the provision tucked away in the health care bill under Section 10503, which establishes a Community Health Center Fund to be administered through the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for the purposes of providing an expanded and sustained national investment in community health centers. …