Several major companies in the fast food and service industries have dug in their heels against Obamacare, deciding that they would rather protect their bottom lines than provide their employees basic health benefits. On Monday, Regal Entertainment Group — which operates Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theaters, and United Artists screens in 38 states — joined the war on health reform, announcing it will cut back non-salaried workers’ shifts to 30 hours per week in order to avoid giving them basic coverage.
The theater chain claims that it is simply trying to “manage [its] budget…in accordance with business needs.” But that assertion rings hollow considering Regal’s soaring profits and lavish executive compensation. In 2012, Regal’s stock went up by over 20 percent, and every single major company executive, including the CEO, CFO, and COO, received a six-figure pay increase. CEO Amy Miles made off particularly well, with her pay rising by 31 percent to $4.45 million for the year, bolstered by a base salary increase of $750,000.
Regal is in the minority. Multiple surveys have shown that approximately 94 percent of the nation’s large employers will either definitely or most likely provide workers’ health benefits under Obamacare, since they fear that not doing so will invite public backlash and could potentially drive away current and prospective employees to companies that treat their workers better. As an executive of Aon Hewitt’s U.S. health and benefits department put it, employers’ incentive to stop sponsoring health insurance “is strong until you look at the numbers. Between the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] penalties for failing to offer coverage and the ensuing talent flight risk, most employers believe they need to continue to play a role in employee health.”
Still, as Regal’s decision demonstrates, not all companies are thinking quite that strategically. But this type of anti-labor practice is nothing new, and it extends far beyond Obamacare. Large companies — and particularly those in the service sector — have a long history of protecting profits by cutting hours, firing workers, slashing benefits, and generally shifting costs onto their employees. Obamacare just offers these corporations a convenient scapegoat.