WASHINGTON — Small apparel manufacturers who are allied with the ILGWU lobbied members of Congress Tuesday in favor of universal health care funded by employer mandates, which they see as a way to cut their health care costs.
In meetings scattered across Capitol Hill, 14 apparel association and company executives told members of the House and Senate that universal coverage, which could cost employers as much as 7.5 percent of payroll under proposed mandates, could lower their current costs, which average about 13 percent of payroll. The employers on the trip, for the most part, have fewer than 100 workers.
The unusual alliance marks the first time the union and its employers have joined to lobby Congress on an issue of such import. Their position also is unusual in the contentious health care reform debate since most small businesses are ardently fighting any kind of employer mandate.
In contrast, members of the Bureau of Wholesale Sales Representatives, based in Atlanta, had scheduled some 226 appointments with members of Congress Tuesday to discuss, among other things, their opposition to employer mandates. The Bureau represents sales representatives who act as brokers between apparel manufacturers and retailers.
Arnold Dellin, executive director of the Atlantic Apparel Contractors’ Association, which represents 150 apparel contractors in Pennsylvania, said in an interview that union employers were at a disadvantage to non-union shops that often don’t provide health care benefits.
Of his alliance with the ILGWU, Dellin said, “We don’t get along with the union on everything, but we have to work with them on this.”
Dellin said the outcome of the health care debate was especially crucial to small apparel manufacturers since they lost their battle to defeat the North American Free Trade Agreement last fall, and because the administration is expected to include a provision to grant Caribbean Basin countries parity with Mexico in the legislation for approving the GATT Uruguay Round treaty.
With union contracts currently under negotiation, Washington ILGWU lobbyist Evelyn Dubrow said the union contacted employers about getting together on the health care front.
“They want to convince Congress that with universal health care coverage under the President’s plan, they could save money,” Dubrow said.