Employers around the country, from fast-food franchises to colleges, have told NBC News that they will be cutting workers' hours below 30 a week because they can't afford to offer the health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"To tell somebody that you've got to decrease their hours because of a law passed in Washington is very frustrating to me," said Loren Goodridge, who owns 21 Subway franchises, including a restaurant in Kennebunk. "I know the impact I'm having on some of my employees."
Goodridge said he's cutting the hours of 50 workers to no more than 29 a week so he won't trigger the provision in the new health care law that requires employers to offer coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more per week. The provision takes effect in 16 months.
Luke Perfect, who has worked at Goodridge's Kennebunk Subway for more than a decade, said it was "horrible" to learn he was among the employees whose hours would be limited, and that it would be a financial hardship. "I'm barely scraping by with overtime," he said.
The White House dismisses such examples as "anecdotal." Jason Furman, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, said, "We are seeing no systematic evidence that the Affordable Care Act is having an adverse impact on job growth or the number of hours employees are working. … [S]ince the ACA became law, nearly 90 percent of the gain in employment has been in full-time positions."
But the president of an influential union that supports Obamacare said the White House is wrong.
"It IS happening," insisted Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has 1.2 million members. "Wait a year. You'll see tremendous impact as workers have their hours reduced and their incomes reduced. The facts are already starting to show up. Their statistics, I think, are a little behind the time."
In a letter to Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, Hansen joined other labor chieftains in warning that the ACA as presently written could "destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the middle class."