When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare Thursday, unions praised the decision, but it wasn’t always that way. The biggest, most powerful unions in the U.S. opposed the law until they were granted special exemptions.
“The decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who need financial assistance to purchase health insurance, and means that tax credits for middle class and low-income Americans will be available in all 50 states,” United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) said in a statement.
The UFCW, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) among others all released statements showing their support for the law and the highest court’s decision to uphold it. Not long ago, however, unions were adamantly opposed to President Barack Obama’s massive healthcare overhaul.
“On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans,” a union letter from 2013, which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, detailed.
The letter held signatures from leadership in the Teamsters, UNITE-HERE and the UFCW. But since that time, unions have come to support the law, while the Obama administration has continued to grant them special privileges.
“We write to express deep disappointment that your agency has approved a final rule creating an unwarranted special carve out benefiting certain unions over other Americans,” a 2014 letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell from Senate Republicans declared. “We demand that the rule be immediately rescinded.”
The letter, signed by 25 Republicans, followed a decision by the Obama administration to release a rule exempting some self-insured health plans, such as those commonly run by unions, from a reinsurance fee written into the law. The fee is designed to stabilize the individual market if too many sick customers sign up for insurance between 2014 and 2016.
“The American people deserve answers when their own government proposes to undermine their right to equal treatment under law,” the letter continued. “Carving out some unions from a multi-billion dollar reinsurance fee, the cost of which will ultimately be borne by every other American with private health insurance, is unacceptable.”
Unions were even granted an exemption to a 40 percent non-deductible excise tax placed on certain health care plans known as the Cadillac plan tax. The administration has sought a special allowance for a number of occupations affiliated with organized labor.
“Now is not the time to divide workers against one another, creating different rules to protect favored constituencies from a poorly designed, drafted, and implemented law,” Senate Republicans said in a February letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. “Instead, we urge you to work with Congress to relieve all Americans from the burdens of the health care.”
The administration has even allowed some union-backed healthcare plans to be grandfathered in even if they don’t include what the law requires. While union plans are not completely immune to Obamacare like some have claimed, they are somewhat. Plans can only grandfathered for as long as an existing workplace union labor contract last. After the agreement expires those plans are held to the same standards as other plans.
King v. Burwell was part of a series of lawsuit which argued that Obamacare was written so that only individuals in states with their own exchanges could get tax credits. Plaintiffs in the case argued that this means the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can’t provide tax credits for individuals in states that opted-out of setting up their own healthcare exchanges. The Supreme Court, however, ruled against the argument.
UFCW, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers the SEIU, Teamsters and UNITE-HERE did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.