Horrendous Health Care Bill Finally Dies in a Week of Attacks on Working Families

The turbulent battle to repeal the Affordable Care Act, fought tooth and nail by the Trump administration and Senate Republican leaders, seems now to have finally ended this week—with a bang—and Americans, especially working families, can breathe a huge sigh of relief as we head into the weekend.

But even with efforts to wrest health care away from millions of people appearing, as of now, to be at least on a very serious pause, we should still look to the past few days as an important reminder of how exactly this administration views its responsibilities to working people.

Throughout his campaign and very explicitly in his inaugural address, Donald Trump promised to base every decision he made on what is best for America’s workers—including by providing them with more jobs.

It’s hard to see how advancing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, skinny or not, would ever have improved the lives of working people. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would not only have taken health care away from millions of Americans—it also would have resulted in tremendous job losses for America’s health care workers, while decimating vital home care services for disabled and older Americans in particular.

Researchers at George Washington University estimate that the U.S. would have lost a million jobs in health care by 2026 if the Senate bill had passed, due largely to the proposed cuts to Medicaid. Many of those jobs would be in home care, a service paid for primarily by Medicaid, that allows older adults and people with disabilities to remain independent in their homes.

If Medicaid was cut, as proposed in the Republican bills, between 305,000 and 713,000 home care workers would have lost their jobs, a huge proportion of the total home care workforce—which already lacks the workers it needs to support current and future demand. The proposed legislation would also have made it harder to improve wages and working conditions for home care workers—who earn on average only $10.09 an hour nationally.

And while congressional Republicans have spent months spinning their wheels to push their Affordable Care Act repeal through, the tenth anniversary of the last time Congress raised the minimum wage has come and gone, with millions of workers across the country struggling to get by on poverty-level wages. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017, introduced by congressional Democrats in May, would address the issue head on, lifting pay for 41 million low-wage workers by gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024.

But lifting pay and strengthening labor standards for working people does not seem to be a priority for the current administration or for Republicans in Congress. Just this week, Trump’s Department of Labor announced it will delay implementation of the existing overtime pay rule—a rule that would extend overtime pay to millions of additional workers by updating the salary threshold to a level that makes sense in today’s economy. Issued in 2016 after two years of extensive engagement with a broad cross-section of stakeholders and the public, the overtime rule raised the threshold employers must satisfy in order to deny overtime pay to workers, to $47,476, up from a meager $23,660, ensuring that an additional 12.5 million workers are protected by the overtime standards laid out in the Fair Labor Standards Act. But the Trump administration seems bent on killing, or at the very least, drastically changing the rule, putting the fair pay rights of those workers in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, while eyes across the nation were focused on the devastating health care repeal, House Republicans quietly introduced legislation attacking joint employer liability—a vital, longstanding mechanism for ensuring that the millions of workers in contracted jobs are able to bargain with and recover unpaid wages from their employers.

In the last few days alone, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress put overtime pay on the chopping block, allowed another year to pass (now, 10 altogether) without raising the minimum wage, pushed to strip health care and jobs away from working families, and introduced legislation rolling back joint employer liability, enabling companies to violate labor laws with impunity. Far from making every decision to benefit America’s workers, this sorry record looks more and more like business as usual at the behest of corporate chieftains and their lobbyists.

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