Finally, the IRS is Enforcing Affordable Care Act!

New Orleans     How many times do we get to talk about good news and the IRS in the same sentence?  Darned few, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.  But, having the IRS finally get off the dime and start enforcing the Affordable Care Act is fantastic news.  The bottom line is that they are making larger businesses step up and comply with the employer mandate to cover their workforce.  There are some other areas where they need to also toe the line, but we’ll get to that after we look at the business scofflaws.

The IRS piddled around with the employer mandate.  The Obama administration gave everyone a break for a year in 2015 because businesses were claiming they were just getting their arms around the law.  Then the IRS had to get their act together to figure out who was doing right and who was doing wrong, so the clock kept ticking longer until they mastered the equation in late 2017.   Now with one-third of 2018 ticking off the clock the IRS has sent out notices to more than 30,000 businesses with penalty letters for the 2015, and they are ginning up to get the penalty notices out for 2016 and 2017 tax years PDQ.

Remember the employer mandate meant that companies with more than 50 full-time workers had to be provided with health care or face fines of more than $2000 per worker.  Keep in mind that we’re talking about 1,500,000 workers at a minimum that should have been offered health care but weren’t.   Odds are that many of these companies thought they were getting away with it and are likely to face penalties for the subsequent years as well.  Now that they are being caught, these bum outfits are screaming like stuck pigs.

Should we feel even one iota of sympathy for any of them.  Heck no!  Especially since the Act did not put caps on the deductibles, so that many companies complied by offering these so-called “skinny” plans that met the minimum standards on paper, but whose $4000 to $6000 deductibles made the plans worthless and unaffordable to the individuals given the small amount they were making on their jobs.  The companies then qualified and escaped the penalties, the workers were barred from the shared costs in the marketplace, and there was often zero participation by workers costing the companies nothing at all.  With loopholes that large any company so heedless of either the law or its workers should absolutely pay the full weight of the penalty.   Let’s make sure they do.

Now if the IRS would also jump on the huge, tax exempt nonprofit hospitals that are cheap skating their charity care and enforce the requirements that they step up or lose their tax-exempt status as required by the Act, we would see some health care going to low income families that desperately need it.  Many of these families work for these same selfish companies, so it is time to square that circle.

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Wanted: A Non-Commercial Company and Boss Guide for Workers

New Orleans  Talking to organizers in Europe in recent weeks, it was interesting to hear that prospects for new warehouse distribution center operations by Amazon have triggered waves of social media comment, protest, and, of course, interest in what the jobs mean, what they pay, and how to deal with the reputation of the company to its rank-and-file warehouse crew.  To organizers this is the scent in the air that could bring them running at the potential of organizing the workforce from the ground up.  Who knows.  Easier said and done, even across the pond.

After batting around various ideas about how to use social media in prospecting for organizing leads and identifying organizing targets, I ended up reading a long piece in The New Yorker that largely focused on a website and app operation called Glassdoor, based in the US but with a footprint in Europe as well.  Glassdoor and its different, but similar, competitors like Vault, JobVent, and F**kedCompany among others, allow people to comment on and evaluate their employers and bosses the same way that popular sites like Yelp allow restaurant customers to rate and rank restaurants and their dining experience.

The article and much about it praised the transparency that such sites allowed employees and in the spirit of the moment some advocates thought it could help expose situations involving sexual harassment and even abuse by offering such a forum.  The article wasn’t just a fan letter though, pointing out repeatedly the conflicts of interest commercial sites like Glassdoor have by essentially allowing companies for a pricey fee to take over their Glassdoor website and soften the critique.  The problem of company encouraged and sponsored reviews that poured sugar in the coffee to distort any criticism also poisoned the transparency and more high-minded mission statement of Glassdoor.  At same time they claimed that personnel departments paid attention to comments and often were asked to comment in job interviews about negative comments on Glassdoor.

All of which got me thinking that it would be wonderful if there were a “real” site that was noncommercial and worker-run and oriented, rather than commercial and corporate infected, so that workers could share information and find out the whole story on their companies, inside and out.  There’s still every evidence despite contradictory impacts that transparency in pay tends to resolve inequities.  The requirements for salary publications in the United Kingdom have certainly had impact, including the resignation of a noted BBC reporter when she found she was paid way less than her co-host.

We need something like a Wikipedia for Workers, if you follow my argument here.  Sure, this would help organizers, and I wish it would help unions, though I doubt that they would have the interest or capacity to alter their model sufficiently to take advantage of the information and interest.  The real beneficiaries would be workers gaining the information and the ability to use it to self-organize and stand up for themselves and each other in their workplaces and force competition and equity in their industries.

That’s my phone ringing.  Someone needs to answer the call!

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