Veronica Roberts

The new trend for several companies is to cut their employees' hours from full-time to part-time. This “downsizing” of time spent on the job is a ruse to avoid paying health care for these workers.

Companies like pizza king Papa John’s and restaurants like Red Lobster, The Capital Grille, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Wendy’s and others think the best way to protect their bottom line is to opt out of Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act). Reducing workers' hours, and thus their salaries, helps them fall outside the category where the health care mandate will be enforced. Incidentally, Papa John’s offered one million free pizzas as a Super Bowl commercial stunt. How can they cover all those free pizzas but not afford health care?

In fact, companies like McDonald’s and Rite Aid already practice what I call the “slash-a-worker-hour to make more,” where they hire most entry-level workers as part-timers. These workers toil just as hard as a full-timer but get half the payout. Moreover, employers do not have to pay any benefits, including health care, for the part-time employee. So a worker can work two part-time jobs at the same company and still not be eligible for benefits. Remember when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during a "60 Minutes" interview on CBS that poor people had health care via their local hospital emergency room? I guess these low wage companies were listening. (Click here to read more on Romney's emergency room solution to health care for millions).

These businesses have made a killing, with a surge in profits even during the recession. (Read it here). While most other businesses were floundering, folks like Papa John’s, McDonald’s and Walmart, to name a few, were flourishing. Meanwhile most of their workers are on government assistance despite having jobs, because their net pay is too small to cover all of their living expenses.

But maybe these CEOs should look at the above video to see the other side of their cost-effective business practice. It’s a spoof, but the logic of it all is so real. Corporate execs are focused on the bottom line while leaving out a crucial contributing factor to that line—healthy workers.

The irony and dangers here are industries where workers are most likely to come into contact with consumers are the ones with the lowest wages and minimal or no health care and paid sick leave. This in turn means that there are greater risks for contagious diseases being spread to the general public through restaurant and fast food preparation.

True, low-wage jobs have a zillion applicants lining up to fill every available vacancy, and employers take advantage of this endless supply of the poor. But the time and effort to train new workers as opposed to using an already skilled staff can cost some of that bottom line they are greedily trying to expand.

So sick workers, especially in the food industry, can become a heavy liability in more ways than one. Lawsuits from patrons getting sick from food served and workers dropping like flies because of illnesses can surely shrink the size of the “profit coffers.”

It just might be cheaper to cover your workers’ health cost, Mr. CEO; after all, their toiling keeps you handsomely paid. In fact, one of those minimum wage employees at McDonald’s will have to work a staggering 500 years to make the salary of his CEO. (Read more here).

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