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The National President's Message


By Gerard A. Jones

National President





 On November 8, 2016, in somewhat of a surprise to many, Donald J. Trump was elected to become the 45th President of the United States. On that same day, Republicans took control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. With a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican President, Republicans now have the power to propose and enact new legislation with little chance of defeat. This is very significant and requires the American public to pay careful attention to what is currently going on in our nation’s capital. 

Much of the recent news has been centered on President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration and his accusations of wiretapping against the previous administration. However, Congress has also introduced new legislation that, if passed, could shape the future of American society.  Since President Trump’s inauguration, there have been bills introduced terminating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, defunding Planned Parenthood and criminalizing abortion.  In addition to these bills, there are two bills introduced by the House of Representatives that are of particular importance to labor unions. HR 277, better known as the American Health Care Reform Act of 2017 (ACHA) and HR 785, better known as the National Right to Work Act are significant because they directly interfere with the goals and victories labor unions have fought so hard to achieve over the years.

The AHCA, which was the bill that attempted to replace the Affordable Act, would have fortunately kept many of the most popular provisions of the plan it was designed to replace. Children would have continued to be allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. In addition, insurers would have still had to cover people regardless of preexisting medical conditions. Annual and lifetime limits would continue to be prohibited.

Despite keeping these provisions, the AHCA would have been problematic for unions and its employees for many different reasons. First, the AHCA would have repealed the individual and employer mandates. On the surface, this appears to be positive because individuals and employers would not receive penalties for not having or offering health insurance. However, not mandating individuals to obtain health insurance may result in healthier people opting out of coverage, which according to some estimates, could raise costs for those who are older and/or sick.

Furthermore, by not requiring employers to offer health insurance, many employees would lose coverage simply because their employers would no longer offer it.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “the [AHCA] would [have] result[ed] in 14 million people losing their health insurance next year, and about 24 million more going uninsured in a decade, compared with what would happen under the ACA.” As a labor organization that has worked diligently to provide the best benefits to its membership, this is simply unacceptable.

Even more problematic for unions and its members than the repeal of the individual and employer mandates concerns what the AHCA did not repeal. The Cadillac Tax, which is a 40% excise tax imposed on comprehensive insurance plans valued over a certain amount, is a direct contradiction to what unions, especially this union, have sought to accomplish for its members; the best possible health coverage. By maintaining this tax, much of the progress unions and its members have made in this area would have been undermined because the tax penalizes people for having very good insurance.

Fortunately for unions and American citizens, the AHCA will not become law, as the Republicans scrapped the current version of this bill. However, although Obamacare remains law, it is still vulnerable to attack by the Republican Party. Since its inception, Obamacare has been under extreme scrutiny and attack by the Republican Party, who now controls the House and Senate. As such, unions and employees alike should still stay informed about potential changes because it could shape the future of healthcare in America.

Despite the problems of the AHCA, it does not pose a direct threat to the existence of unions like the National Right to Work Act does. The bill aims to “preserve and protect the free choice of individual employees to form, join or assist labor organizations or to refrain from such activities.” This description is actually quite misleading, much like the name of the Act itself. Right  to work laws are laws that prevent union security agreements. Under these laws, employees are not required to join or pay for the cost of union representation. Currently, there are 28 states who have such right to work laws; a federal law such as the National Right to Work Act would require all 50 states to adhere to it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014, “on average, workers in states with right to work laws make $6,109 a year (12.1%) less annually than workers in other states.” Furthermore, the Economic Policy Institute states, “right to work laws lower wagers and benefits, weaken workplace protections and decrease the likelihood that employers will be required to negotiate with their employees.” Based on these sources, it is clear that right to work laws present a major challenge for labor unions to overcome; a national right to work law may just undermine the existence of unions as we know it.

I am not writing all of this to scare you or suggest that the existence of NOITU is any way in jeopardy, but rather to make you aware of the practices of the current administration that could affect you and your family, especially as it relates to the progress of the labor movement. Please be mindful of these and other laws this administration attempts to enact when given your next opportunity to have your voice heard, whether on the local, state or national level.

Last year, our Life Insurance, Optical and Dental benefits were increased to provide improved coverage for our members and their eligible dependents. We are always exploring options on how to improve our benefit programs, and you will be notified of future improvements as they become available. Lastly, for all members with children who will be graduating high school this year, see our scholarship application on page 7. Good luck!

Wishing you and your families a safe and enjoyable Spring and Summer seasons!

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