Camp Opening Statement: Mark up of H.R. 2575, the “Save American Workers Act” and H.R. 3979, the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act”
(Remarks as Prepared)
Good morning. As we discussed last week at our hearing, the President’s health care law drastically changed the definition of full-time work. As a result, millions of Americans are having their hours and wages cut as employers are forced to deal with the additional costs imposed by the law.
The President says that he wants to work with Congress to combat income inequality, increase wages and have equal pay for men and women. Yet, it is the President’s massive health care law that is making these problems worse by changing the definition of full-time work to 30 hours per week.
A recent Hoover Institution study found that 2.6 million Americans making under $30,000 a year are most at risk of having their hours and wages cut as a result of the 30-hour rule. Of that, over 60 percent are women and 90 percent do not have a college degree.
As one economist noted last week, “By disproportionately reducing women’s work hours, health reform may have the unintended consequence of increasing the gap between men’s and women’s wages and salaries.” Even a former member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors testified that, "employers can reduce wages to offset at least some of the increased health insurance costs that they face as a result of the employer responsibility provisions.” Do workers really want reduced wages to pay for ObamaCare’s mandates?
Simply put, ObamaCare is putting full-time work and the potential to earn more wages out of the reach of millions of Americans already struggling in these tough economic times.
Though the 30-hour rule does not even go into effect until the end of this year, it already is inflicting pain on small businesses, restaurants, retailers, school districts, community colleges and their employees. In my home state of Michigan alone, there are already reports of towns and municipalities, like Dearborn and Portage cutting hours back to below 28 per week, school districts such as Meridian public schools cutting back hours for support staff and universities cutting back adjunct professors’ and students’ work-study hours.
America’s workers deserve better. When tens of millions of Americans are unemployed, we must take every opportunity to help employers create jobs, increase wages for workers, and offer more full-time positions. Today, we will do just that by considering Rep. Todd Young’s legislation, the Save American Workers Act. This legislation restores a common understanding in America, spanning over half a century, of what constitutes full-time work. In other words, it restores a basic American value.
Additionally, we will consider legislation to protect volunteer firefighters and emergency responders from the burdens of the employer mandate. The tradition of volunteer firefighting dates back to Colonial times, and all Americans appreciate and honor the dedication and sacrifice of our volunteer emergency responders. Today, we rely on over 780,000 volunteer firefighters across the country to protect our communities, which represents 72 percent of all firefighters. Together they serve in 20,000 all-volunteer fire departments and 5,000 combination career-volunteer fire departments.
The complexity and sweeping nature of ObamaCare has alarmed the country’s firefighting and emergency responder community because it could result in small towns and local fire districts counting their volunteers as full-time employees and sweep them under the costly provisions of the employer mandate.
And while the Administration has published a blog post promising to fix the problem, Congress has a responsibility to make it crystal clear – in statute – that our first responders will have the certainty and peace of mind that they will not be subjected to this burden.
We have all heard stories from our constituents who are having their hours and wages cut; who are not sure if they can continue to pay for their mortgages, groceries or college tuition; and just want a fair shot at the American dream. These two provisions are prime examples of the failed policies arising from the health care law. Today, we have an opportunity to use some common sense and repeal these policies. I hope the two bills we consider today will receive strong, bipartisan support.