The Herald Bulletin

February 6, 2014

Congress considering 40-hour work week bills

Action could mean more pay for part-time workers

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — As members of the Indiana congressional delegation fight to designate a change to what constitutes full-time employment, a local union believes it will increase the pay of part-time workers.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th District, have voiced support to change the full-time employment from 30 hours as outlined in the Affordable Care Act back to 40 hours.

The Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House on Tuesday passed legislation to define full-time employment as 40 hours per week. The legislation awaits a vote on the House floor.

Brigid Kelly, an official with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 70, said the 30-hour designation impacted its members.

“There are a lot of people that work part-time,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it is 30 or 40 hours, there are a large group of employers that don’t want to provide benefits to part-time employees.”

Kelly said it is never a good situation for union members to have their working hours cut because of the impact on their income.

She said the union supports the “Part Time Employees Bill of Rights,” which would give incentives to employers to provide benefits to all employees.

That bill has been assigned to the Education and Workforce Committee of the U.S. House. Kelly doesn’t expect the legislation to be passed.

“The more people that are covered by insurance means it will drive down the cost,” Kelly said.

Brooks said she is hopeful the legislation will be approved following action by the House committee.

“I’ve heard from too many constituents who are losing time on the job and are taking home less money to support their families because of this provision,” Brooks said in a statement released Wednesday. “I’m very encouraged legislation I’ve co-sponsored that will restore the traditional work week from 30 hours to 40 hours is moving forward.”

Brooks said one of the worst unintended consequences is to schools, where the hours have been reduced for substitute teachers, coaches and instructional assistants.

Donnelly has co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate the “Forty Hours is Full Time Act.” He said he was pleased by the Ways and Means Committee action.

“It is my view – based on what I’ve heard from Hoosier employees and employers – that we need to fix the definition of full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act,” Donnelly said in a press statement Wednesday. “It should be defined as someone who works 40 hours, not 30 hours. I hope we can work together, both Democrats and Republicans, to make the health care law work better for Hoosier families, employees and employers.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.

Health care act impact More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the economy will have the equivalent of 2.3 million fewer full-time workers by 2021 as a result of the law -- nearly three times previous estimates. The CBO attributed the decline in workforce participation primarily due to insurance subsidies becoming less generous as income rises. There were other, less important causes, too, including the likelihood that some employers will cut people's hours, hire fewer workers or offer lower wages to new workers to avoid or compensate for a new fine on employers that do not offer insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week.