© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
January 8th, 2013
Another moronic businessman who wants to make a principled stand for employee subjugation popped up yesterday. The owner of eleven Omaha Nebraska franchises, Scott King, ordered full time employees’ hours cut to 28 a week or less (except for management, of course) in order to evade having to pay for Obamacare. He’s not the first cheap dirtbag to come up with this, of course; other outfits, including most famously Papa John’s Pizza, have tried the same stunt, and they’ve discovered that their open displays of contempt for their own employees cost far more than the minimal savings of not enrolling in Obamacare would have.
He’ll learn that screwing the employees like that really hurts his own best interests, and he’ll back down, whining loudly that he shouldn’t have to pay for employee medical care.
That’s one of the strangest things about the set up America has for health care. Most employers hate the costs and time involved in providing insurance to their employees, and the scummier ones, up until now, simply didn’t bother. This is America. Life is cheap.
It demonstrably hurts American competitiveness; one reason Detroit lost so much ground against European and Japanese car makers was because while employees on the lines overseas got paid as well as or better than their union counterparts in America, the employers here also had to shell out for medical insurance. In Europe, it came out of everyone’s taxes, and the employer had absolutely nothing to do with it. Not only did this save the employer money, but it saved everyone money, because it was a much more streamlined and efficient system, one with cost controls built in. A medical provider who tries to cheat National Health and gets caught is out of business.
You might ask why, if providing health care is such a bother and expense for employers, why they don’t simply advocate for single payer or some other form of national health program. The answer, of course, is that employers who DO provide health care coverage have essentially unlimited power over their employees. “You don’t want to work free overtime? Gee, a pity you’ve got a sick kid at home. It should be a shame if something were to HAPPEN to her health care coverage…”
At the level of cheap mass-food eateries, of course, the economics of scale means that the insurance costs add 1 to 2 percent to the cost of the French fries and other crap being ladled out. But employers in such outfits are used to seeing employees as nothing more than an annoying overhead, interchangeable units that can be disposed of at will. Combined with race-to-the-bottom competitiveness, and most outfits like those treat their employees like dirt.
Another element that has come into play is if Obamacare violates the religious beliefs of employers. The case involving Hobby Lobby has been getting the most attention, but there is another one winding its way toward Scalia and Thomas and Roberts that’s even more disquieting.
A medium sized construction firm, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors is owned (88%) by a pair of devout Catholics, Cyril and Jane Korte. The Kortes want to run their business by Catholic precepts which, given that the church doesn’t have any controversial stands on construction, seems harmless enough, and certainly the Kortes are entitled to their religious beliefs.
Like a lot of construction outfits, they have an open shop. Some employees are union, and some aren’t. The union employees have a health care package through their union that includes contraception. If the Kortes have any objection to this, it didn’t show up in the pleadings, and if I had to guess, lacking any legal grounds to challenge the union on their health care policies, they simply donate lavishly to politicians who want to abolish unions. Mind you, that is just what I surmise.
Their non-union employees get the health care package the Kortes provide, and they’ve decided they don’t want to provide one that includes no co-pay contraception. Never mind that it isn’t an itemized part of their health care coverage; all health care insurance policies must now include a no-co-pay contraception coverage in their packages. So they don’t pay extra for it, and obviously, it’s not really any of their business if an employee is on the pill, or keeps a rubber in his wallet in case he gets lucky.
This case went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which made a really troubling ruling. They granted the Kortes their petition, based in part on Citizens United.
Citizens United, the court ruled, means that it doesn’t matter if K & J Contractors is a corporation or not; Citizens United upholds the first amendment rights of K & J. The court said, “That the Kortes operate their business in the corporate form is not dispositive of their claim. See generally Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010). The contraception mandate applies to K & L Contractors as an employer of more than 50 employees, and the Kortes would have to violate their religious beliefs to operate their company in compliance with it. ”
This temporary stay will go to the Supreme Court next, where Scalia and Thomas and Roberts and Alito all are rubbing their Dominionist hands and hoping to exalt Jesus over the Constitution and employers over workers.
It’s a horrific legal policy. It makes all employees subject to the first amendment rights of their employers. An employer may believe it is wrong to transfuse blood, or that women must cover themselves from head to foot, and employees would be required to subject themselves to that belief—both at work and on their own time. (What, you think the employees of K & J are taking contraception on the job or something?).
It’s a final consolidation of power. Not religious power, necessarily. That’s just a handy excuse. It’s a consolidation of employer power over employees. Twenty-two states already have “at-will” laws in which an employer can fire an employee without any stated cause at all. If you are in one of those states and the boss observes that he sure would like for you to give him a blow job, you have a choice; either start looking for a new job, or get down on your knees.
The fact is that American employees already have fewer rights than citizens in most dictatorships.
The Supreme Court may just use this decision to finish the process, and make us all slaves to corporate power.
-- Not dead, in jail or a slave? Thank a liberal!