Book: Obamacare law designed to unionize 21 million health care workers

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

In a book set for publication Tuesday, a politics and government professor at The Citadel claims President Obama’s 2009 health care reform law was, in part, a union-driven effort to organize 21 million health care workers.

In “Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind,” Mallory Factor describes a December 9, 2008 memo from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare president Dennis Rivera to the Obama-Biden transition team.

That memo outlined a legislative proposal calling for “increasing the capacity of the health care workforce” as part of a larger health care reform initiative.

The SEIU and the Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Factor writes, later coordinated with other public-sector unions to spend “literally hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Obamacare.”

The Daily Caller requested comments for this article from the SEIU, AFSCME and a White House spokesman. None of them responded.

A booklet published by SEIU during the 2008 election season called for “building a new American health care system,” in part by “organizing workers.” The publication argued for outcomes nearly identical to those later adopted in the Obamacare legislation.

“We … will not stop until every man, woman and child has quality, affordable care they can count on,” it read. “The time to fix health care is now.”

And in an April 9, 2011 memo, the United Healthcare Workers — a union affiliated with the SEIU — articulated its future vision, including “an ambitious plan to fight for our future by organizing healthcare workers.”

In 2010 the SEIU elected Mary Key Henry as its new International President. Henry’s background was in health care organizing. She led efforts to unionize workers at Beverly nursing homes, Catholic Health Care West, Tenet Healthcare Corporation and HCA Healthcare.

Factor, who is also a Forbes columnist and senior editor of money and politics for The Street.com, recounts emails from former federal Office of Labor-Management Standards staffer Don Loos, now a senior adviser to the president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“It is clear that Big Labor is banking on the probability that all healthcare workers eventually become federal, state, and municipal healthcare employees,” Loos told Factor. That, he said, would make them eligible for involuntary unionization through public-sector unions like AFSCME and the SEIU.

“Obamacare is an SEIU and AFSCME membership ‘net,'” Loos claimed, “designed to eventually capture 21 million forced-dues paying government workers.” New health care jobs created by Obamacare, he said, will eventually be filled by “federal, state, and municipal healthcare employees.”

The Obamacare law, once fully implemented, will dramatically increase the number of health care workers receiving payment for their services through government programs, including Medicaid and so-called “public option” government-run insurance plans.

“The government employee unions can then enlist pro-union state governments to treat these health care workers as ‘government employees,'” Factor told The Daily Caller, “and unionize them just like they unionized the care providers” themselves.

“For every million additional health care workers unionized in the 27 non-right-to-work states,” he told TheDC, “the unions stand to earn $1 billion in dues.”

Factor writes in “Shadowbosses” that Canada’s national health care system has provided an apt example. Heritage Foundation labor economist James Sherk told him that “60 percent of Canadian health care workers and a stunning 80 percent of nurses belong to unions — more than quadruple the levels in America.”

Only 10 percent of them were union members before the advent of socialized medicine in Canada, Factor said.

The SEIU’s designs on health care reform surfaced in a meeting at the union’s headquarters held in November 2007, during the early days of the 2008 presidential election season. During one session, former Clinton senior health care policy adviser Chris Jennings made a presentation titled ‘”Rx for Successful SEIU Strategy for Health Care.”

Making comprehensive health care reform a key issue during the election, Jennings’ PowerPoint presentation indicates he told an audience of mostly SEIU policymakers and executives, would be good union policy because it “creates demand for SEIU-provided services.”

Ultimately, the Obama administration granted Obamacare waivers to 1,231 employers, making them exempt from the law’s requirements for at least 30 months. Those waivers cover 613,625 employees overall, of which 88.6 percent are represented by unions and just 11.4 percent work for private employers. (RELATED: Labor unions primary recipients of Obamacare waivers)

Unions’ support for President Obama’s health care reform vision was initially tepid after his inauguration because he proposed paying for some of the legislation’s cost by levying a 40 percent excise tax on unusually expensive insurance plans.

These so-called “Cadillac” plans, which feature low deductibles and offer benefits covering expensive treatments that other plans exclude, were common among unions themselves — meaning that the unions lobbied for Obamacare despite the fact that it promised to upgrade the insurance plans of relatively few of their members.

But the administration later agreed to a moratorium on taxing those Cadillac plans, giving labor unions until 2018 to lobby for other ways to spare themselves the extra cost.

That delay added nearly an extra $120 billion to Obamacare’s overall calculated cost, a shortfall that the law made up by making additional cuts to Medicare Advantage, the “Medicare Part C” program that allows some senior citizens to receive benefits through private insurance companies.

Follow David on Twitter