Staples, the Framingham-based office retailer has found itself at the center of the debate over the Affordable Care Act and its effect on big companies.
The Buzzfeed reported that Staples was telling part-time workers it would fire them if they worked more than 25 hours a week. The reason, the report said, is to avoid hitting the 30 hour-a-week employer mandate for offering health care coverage under President Obama's health care act.
"I haven't looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security, and if they can't then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages," President Obama said in an interview with Buzzfeed. "When I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back worker's wages, shame on them."
Staples says the Buzzfeed story got the facts wrong. The company declined a request for an interview, but sent us a statement which reads, in part:
"Unfortunately, the president appears not to have all the facts. The initial story was misleading as our policy regarding hours for part-time employees is more than a decade old. It pre-dates the Affordable Care Act by several years...Staples offers a range of benefits to part-time associates and provides tools and resources to help associates navigate insurance exchanges and access health care through marketplace options...It's unfortunate that the president is attacking a company that provides more than 85,000 jobs and is a major taxpayer."
Meanwhile, the story has brought up the question: what does the employer mandate on healthcare coverage mean for big companies and their part-time workers?
Tom Juravich, professor of sociology and labor studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
- "While architects of the ACA hoped companies wouldn’t manage their labor forces this way in response to the law, they’re unable to do much about those who do. And in the absence of any recourse, it’s the part-time workers who are suffering."
Buzzfeed: Obama Defends His Legacy
- "He lacerated the CEO of the office supply giant Staples for avoiding providing health care to some workers, and he reflected on his own indirect path toward supporting the signature civil rights shift of his term, marriage equality."
This segment aired on February 18, 2015.