January 15, 2010 Volume 111 Number 2

Merkley amends health reform to help union contractors compete

The Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council is sending a letter to Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley thanking him for an amendment he attached to the Senate health care reform bill that requires construction contractors with over $250,000 in payroll or more than five workers to provide employee health insurance or pay a $750 penalty.

“This is a great victory for our union contractors, as it helps level the playing field with nonunion contractors who don’t provide health insurance for their employees,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary-treasurer of the CPBCTC.

“We commend Sen. Merkley for standing up to sponsor this amendment,” said Lake Coulson, executive director, government affairs of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), in a press release. “Construction employers who fail to provide health care for their workers should not gain a competitive advantage.”

The Senate’s initial health care reform bill contained a small business exemption for companies with fewer than 50 employees. However, the construction industry is dominated by small employers (20 employees or less), so under that threshold up to 90 percent of contractors would have been exempt. And because unionized construction contractors provide health insurance for their workers, the exemption would have written into law a competitive advantage for nonunion contractors.

Merkley’s amendment was co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and had wide support throughout the Senate.

The Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council encourages all construction workers to contact Merkley’s office and thank him for the amendment. In Portland, call 503-326-3386.

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.