The 40-hour workweek was championed by labor unions in the 19th century as a boon to their overworked members. Ford Motor Company implemented it in 1914 after Henry Ford, the company’s founder, concluded that the then-48-hour week was too long and hurt productivity.
Ford’s foresight bolstered the middle class and established the U.S. as a model of economic security for the world. But that stability is now being threatened by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which, for reasons that have nothing to do with the health and well-being of employees, reduced the work week to 30 hours. Rather than helping the average worker, the abrupt change is making life harder for American families.
Business owners have reportedly increased their use of part-time workers and curtailed hiring according to research conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the International Franchise Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey showed that the healthcare law would force 50 percent of small businesses to cut hours or reduce the number of workers on their payrolls. Forty one percent said the ACA has caused them to delay hiring new employees.
Hundreds of thousands of people are working far less than the well-established 40-hour work week. Out of necessity in order to sustain profitability and to keep their current employees, companies are reducing their employees’ hours rather than pay the steep costs of the ACA. Millions of workers have lost hours, health coverage and, in too many cases, their livelihoods.
More than 100 major companies have chosen to cut their workers’ hours to 29 hours a week or fewer. That reduction of roughly 25 percent in wages has hit families hardest that already are struggling. And why the change? From Maine to Minnesota and from Indiana to Florida, companies such as Forever 21 and Regal Entertainment and many small restaurant and franchise owners are reducing their employees’ hours because of the health care law.
The ACA was supposed to help low- and middle-income workers. Instead, it’s creating disincentives for employers to offer workers more hours. This accounts in large measure for the sharp rise in part-time work recorded in federal government surveys. It also explains why so many already-overburdened breadwinners are scrambling to find second and third jobs.
In other words, the ACA is a setback for working families who can’t afford to face another problem. The take-home pay of the middle class has been stagnant for years. According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, weekly earnings for full-time workers are lower now than before the start of the Great Recession. The buying power of a worker’s paycheck is no higher than it was in 1999.
Washington should be offering pro-growth ideas and solutions to enable job creation, not laws that shrink wages and jobs. The 30-hour rule gave the ACA’s authors a way to find enough money to pay for near-universal health care coverage. But it also delivered a gut punch to working families. That injustice must be corrected before irreparable harm is done to America’s workforce and the overall U.S. economy.
To that end, we are pleased to see bipartisan support at the outset of the new Congress for the Save American Workers Act, which has been scheduled for a vote the first week of the House’s return. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Todd YoungTodd YoungGOP lawmaker under ethics review Republicans call for 'new system' to replace ObamaCare Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates MORE (R-Ind.) and Dan Lapinski (D-Ill.), passed the House last April with 18 Democrats. We are hopeful more Democrats will heed the public dissatisfaction with The ACA and choose to support this common-sense reform.
That would set the stage for the Senate to consider the bill. The American people sent a clear message during the midterm elections that they want Washington to work in a bipartisan way to find areas of compromise. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsMedicare looms over Trump-Ryan alliance Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Cornyn: ‘Virtual certainty’ Sessions and Price will be confirmed MORE (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyTrump’s vow on Medicare in doubt after HHS choice Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks Red-state Democrat: I'll oppose Trump's health chief MORE (D-Ind.), sponsors of the companion bill in the Senate, were prevented last year under Harry ReidHarry ReidTop Dem: Congress could need brief funding extension Reid to media: Your work is more important than ever Free speech is a right, not a political weapon MORE’s control of the Senate from allowing a vote on this bill. That won’t be a problem for Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), who endorsed the 40-hour work week as a key GOP priority in a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Speaker BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World 'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run MORE (R-Ohio) the morning after Election Day.
As leaders of a new coalition from across the country spanning a variety of industries from retail and restaurants to grocery and hotels, the More Time for Full-Time initiative is calling on Congress to work together in a bipartisan way to harmonize the definition of full-time employee in the ACA with the traditional 40-hour definition. To do otherwise would perpetuate employee’s lost wages and hours, jobs lost and economic suffering. It’s time to act. The ACA has already cost our industries and employees enough.
Caldeira is president and CEO of the International Franchise Association and Sweeney is the president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.