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Snubbed by ACA, Major Unions Send Letter to Dem Leaders Predicting Tepid Midterm Election Mobilization from Membership

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The leaders of LiUNA! and Unite Here have written a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggesting that their membership will not campaign for Democratic candidates during the 2014 midterm elections if provisions of the Affordable Care Act which alter their health insurance programs are not addressed. At stake is the security of the health plans of over 20 million people covered by “Taft-Hartley” funds, the unions explain.  

The Treasury Department has ruled that these plans do not qualify for the tax breaks set up in the ACA.  These types of health plans are of particular importance to members of the construction trades as the nature of their job causes them to move from worksite to worksite, making traditional health insurance through one employer an impossibility.

Unite Here President D. Taylor told the Washington Post: “We want to hold the president to his word: If you like your health-care coverage, you can keep it, and that just hasn’t been the case.”

Taylor admits that Unite Here will not throw their support behind Republican candidates, but acknowledges that members have lost enthusiasm for the Democratic Party as a result of the health care fiasco and will be less likely to deploy their volunteers in the upcoming months:

“You can’t just order people to do stuff,” Taylor said. “If their health plan gets wrecked, why would they then go campaign for the folks responsible for wrecking their health care?”

In the letter to Pelosi and Reid, Taylor and Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA!) President Terry O’Sullivan argue that they have made attempts to remedy the situation for three years.  They now feel that their voices have been wholly ignored:

Once we realized the ACA would not let us keep the health care we had, we spent three years presenting the Administration with reasonable fixes to the ACA’s problems. All of them were rejected and the proposed regulations offer virtually no assistance toward any of these solutions.

We were bitterly disappointed upon reading the proposed regulations put forward by the Administration. If the Administration honestly thinks that these proposed rules are responsive to our concerns, they were not listening or they simply did not care. We have examined various health exchanges and should members be forced to purchase insurance on an exchange, their out of pocket costs are likely to be significant, reaching into the thousands of dollars even if they are eligible for a subsidy under the act. it would be a sad irony indeed if the signature legislative accomplishment of an Administration committed to reducing income inequality cut living standards for middle income and low wage workers.

Taylor told the Washington Post that Unite Here officials have met with White House officials 48 times attempting to right the problems stemming from the ACA.  He says that they were told throughout the process that problems “would be fixed”:

We thought that if we made the case to the agencies dealing with regulations to correct problems that hurt, really destroy, self-funded nonprofit health plans, it would be resolved,” Taylor said. “That clearly was naive or stupid.”

Health care hangups are not the only hurdles to garnering the traditional support of left-leaning contingents. Democrats hoping to run on a message of improving income inequality could face a backlash from far lefties who will highlight the President’s inability to reign in Wall Street. The Washington Post forecasting model predicts that Republicans have a 44 percent chance of taking the Senate in 2014, a number which some think will grow throughout the year.

History has shown us that the President’s party does poorly in the midterm elections of their second administration. Larry Sabato explains in his new POLITICO column that the popularity of the President is no small matter for Democrats:

…Obama’s popularity has sagged badly in his fifth year. While some unforeseen event in 2014 might add some points to his job approval average, the odds are against a full restoration; it’s just as likely Obama’s polling average, currently in the low 40s, will decline further—though Obama may have a relatively high floor because of consistent backing from minority voters and other elements of the Democratic base.

As 2014 begins, the environment for the Democrats in this election year is not good. The botched, chaotic rollout of the Affordable Care Act is the obvious cause, but it is broader than that: the typical sixth-year unease that produces a “send-them-a-message” election.


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