By Aaron Ortega
Over my Thanksgiving break, one family tableside conversation drew my attention more than usual topics of holiday chatter. My sister, demonstrating pains occurring in her elbow and shoulder joints due to psoriasis, expressed natural concern over her lack of medical insurance. Her employer, a certain restaurant chain that delivers Italian-style pizza pies to homes all over America, was purportedly failing to similarly deliver hours to its employees to ensure them proper health care.
Due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many business owners are cutting employees’ hours just under the minimum requirement that would allow them to be eligible for affordable health care. While Papa John’s CEO, John Schnatter, has claimed he was misquoted about cutting employees’ hours, according to www.cbsnews.com, many other business owners across America are doing just that.
Two weeks ago, it was reported by www.post-gazette.com that Alex Johnson, president of Community College of Allegheny County, announced the college would cut hours and course loads of nearly 400 part-time employees. While this plan will only cut hours of temporary part-time employees, it is the first news of restricted hours affecting the benefits of employees in the education workforce, as opposed to employees of pizza and sandwich profiteers such as Papa John’s or Jimmy John’s.
This trend, however small it may be as of now, may only grow if these strategies prove to be a penny-pinching alternative, as opposed to business owners embracing “Obamacare” as a necessary cost to insure a host of healthy employees. According to www.examiner.com, Applebee’s, Darden (parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), Dana Holding Corp., and Boston Scientific are all planning to take similar action and reduce hours or initiate layoffs of their work forces. Murray Energy’s CEO laid off 160 workers following President Barack Obama’s re-election.
However unprofitable maintaining a healthy workforce may be, it surely isn’t worth infringing upon an employee’s income as well, not to mention reducing job growth in a country already suffering from a somewhat sluggish economy.
I don’t envision every company owner as a tuxedo-clad tycoon, eyeing their vast empire through a single monocle, laughing at the misfortunes of those less fortunate. I realize these owners are simply doing what is natural in capitalistic society: making more money while saving unnecessary costs to themselves. I do not blame the shark for breaching ocean waves, clenching adorable seals in its massive jaws. They’re just doing what nature intended, no matter how unforgiving.
I do not place any blame on Obama’s re-election, either. The Affordable Care Act is the least America can do to make the jump from No. 37 in the world’s ranking of nations with the best health care, according to www.photius.com, to at least 20 or so. But that would mean bumping Switzerland down a notch.
“Obamacare” was an act a long time coming, especially for a first-world nation with high poverty and unemployment rates.
The question is not who to blame for these employee cuts, but what to do to prevent them. “Obamacare” is not going anywhere, so all businesses, big and small, must adjust and work on real solutions. Papa John’s CEO Schnatter stressed passing on the extra cost of coverage to the customer. Letting the consumer public foot the bill may provide some of the relief necessary to prevent serious cuts to labor.
My only hope is that while “Obamacare” is just the shot in the arm America needed, the lollipop America receives afterward will be an unwavering, healthy work force. While easier said than done, this is clearly necessary.