Will County union strikes over proposed health insurance contributions

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
November 21, 2013

Will County union strikes over proposed health insurance contributions

Will County is going through a perfect storm of unionism: an unjustified strike called by a union that is spooked by ObamaCare but unwilling to admit it. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028 called for a walkout by about 1,000 county employees in spite of a pretty good offer from the...

Will County is going through a perfect storm of unionism: an unjustified strike called by a union that is spooked by ObamaCare but unwilling to admit it.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028 called for a walkout by about 1,000 county employees in spite of a pretty good offer from the county, which included pay raises of 14.5 percent over four years.

The county did call for a reworking of how health insurance was paid for. Instead of county employees contributing a portion of their salary to health care, they would pick up a percentage of the cost of premiums themselves. The county’s offer connected worker pay to health insurance costs – as health premiums went up, so would the part that county employees would need to contribute. But the county would have still been expected to cover about 90 percent of premiums.

This is where the slow-motion collapse of ObamaCare comes into the picture. If the health care law worked as its proponents, including many unions, expected it would, this shift shouldn’t be a big deal. If the Affordable Care Act reduced premiums by $2,500 per family, as advertised, county workers would come out ahead.

But as we are learning, very little of ObamaCare is working as it was supposed to. The exchange websites have been unusable, and millions of Americans are not being allowed to keep their plans as was promised. New requirements imposed on insurers are making health insurance more expensive. Congress and the Obama administration are improvising short-term solutions, such as reinstating canceled health insurance plans, that are likely to suppress enrollments in Obamacare.

Unions have had a messy relationship with the health care law. Originally union bosses were supporters – but  over the summer, as flaws revealed themselves, many private sector unions turned critical, and one union boss even suggested that the Affordable Care Act might need to be repealed. But that ended in October, at about the time the law began taking effect and its negative effects were impossible to ignore.

So along with unreasonable wage demands, Will County must deal with union officials who are terrified of the effect that ObamaCare will have on the cost of health insurance – but are not yet willing to call for the law’s repeal. AFSCME brass knows that ObamaCare won’t work, but they want Will County taxpayers to pay for the mess that ObamaCare is creating.

If there’s any good news for the people of Will County, it is that county employees themselves aren’t necessarily fooled by their union’s posturing. According to Will County Human Resources Director Bruce Tidwell, nearly one-third of the employees covered by the strike announcement reported for duty Monday morning. If enough of their co-workers abandon the picket lines, the result would be a failed strike.

And that would get the attention of AFSCME’s leadership and maybe push them into a different course of action, which is something to be earnestly hoped for. The best thing for all concerned would be for AFSCME officials to listen to their members, call off the strike and then start work on the orderly dismantling of ObamaCare.

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