WASHINGTON (AP) — The AFL-CIO on Wednesday approved a resolution critical of parts of President Barack Obama's health care law in spite of efforts by White House officials to discourage the labor federation from making its concerns so prominent.
The strongly worded resolution says the Affordable Care Act will drive up the costs of union-sponsored health plans to the point that workers and employers are forced to abandon them. Labor unions still support the law's overall goals of reducing health costs and bringing coverage to all Americans, the resolution says, but adds that the law is being implemented in a way that is "highly disruptive" to union health care plans.
Some individual unions have complained about the law's impact for months. The resolution marks the first time the nation's largest labor federation has gone on record embracing that view. Unions were among the most enthusiastic backers of the law when it passed in 2010.
A labor official told The Associated Press that White House officials had been calling labor leaders for days to urge them not to voice their concerns in the form of a resolution. The official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the conversations publicly and requested anonymity, said many union leaders insisted that they wanted to highlight their concerns.
Asked about any efforts to discourage unions from passing the resolution, the White House said in a statement Wednesday night that officials "are in regular contact with a variety of stakeholders, including unions, as part of our efforts to ensure smooth implementation and to improve the law."
The AFL-CIO, one of the president's major boosters, approved the resolution just as the administration began rolling out a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to encourage Americans to sign up for health care exchanges starting Oct. 1.
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, said the intent of the resolution is to "point out the criticisms without being overly caustic."
"There have to be some changes made in the area that are giving a number of our unions great concern," said Schaitberger, who chaired the committee that hammered out the resolution's language.
The resolution was approved at the AFL-CIO's quadrennial convention in Los Angeles. It claims the new law will increase costs for health plans that are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers in the construction, retail and transportation industries. That could encourage employers to hire fewer union workers or abandon the health plans altogether and force union members to seek lower quality coverage on the new health exchanges.
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