The Senate is about to put coal in the stocking of home builders and other small construction firms.
The amended version of the health care reform bill, which cleared another procedural hurdle Wednesday morning, includes a provision that penalizes small construction firms if they don’t offer insurance to their employees. Under the bill, businesses with more than 50 employees would have to pay a $750-per-worker penalty to the federal government if any of their employees purchases subsidized insurance on their own. The new version of the bill lowers that threshold to five employees for construction firms.The National Association of Home Builders contends the provision, reportedly suggested by the AFL-CIO, could put many small home builders out of business and derail the housing recovery.“This narrow provision is an unprecedented assault on the construction industry and unjustly targets an industry trying to keep its doors open during the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla.
“This is a true jobs killer,” he said. “Thousands of small builder firms struggling to stay afloat could go under. We strongly urge the Senate to reconsider and pull this onerous provision.”
The amendment is clearly targeting the non-union construction industry, which comprises approximately 85% of the enitre construction industry. Unionized construction firms, on the other hand, typically obtain their workers from unions (usually though union hiring halls, which are like a temp agencies) and, as part of the ‘package,’ unionized companies must pay into the unions’ health and welfare mutli-employer funds.
The Associated Builders & Contractors, a trade association of roughly 23,000 mostly small (and union-free) construction companies is urging its members to call their senators to remove this discriminatory language from any final bill.
“At a time when our industry is facing the worst construction economy in decades, the last thing contractors need are vast new mandates from the federal government dictating to them how they will run their business,” said Kirk Pickerel, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors.
Here is the text of an e-mail sent out earlier to its membership:
Construction Industry Targeted in Senate Health Care Bill New Last Minute Mandate Added
The Senate health care bill mandates that all companies must provide their employees with health coverage. The one exemption to that mandate is that small businesses, companies with 50 employees or less, are not subject to that health care requirement. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) proposed an amendment which excludes construction firms (and only construction firms) from the small business exemption. The Merkley Amendment ‘s language was never voted on, but was added to the health care bill at the last minute. The Senate will vote on the entire health care package on Christmas Eve.
In other words, construction firms with five employees or more will now be required, by federal law, to provide their employees with health coverage.
Call your Senators TODAY. Tell them that this bill unfairly singles out small construction firms for vast federal government mandates at a time when our industry can least afford it.
Like so many other things in Washington today, this is another example of big payback to big union bosses…at the expense of the rest of America.
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