Miami-Dade Public Schools and WLRN Make Serious Cuts, Supposedly Because of Obamacare

Miami-Dade County Public Schools and WLRN are both making serious cuts to part-time employee hours, supposedly because of Obamacare.

The cutback will affect "several hundred" school employees, including substitute teachers, custodians, and security guards, according to an MDCPS spokesman. Also seeing their hours slashed are part-time WLRN employees, some of whom are paid by the school district. Many MDCPS employees are furious, especially because the cuts are coming just before the holidays.

"Frankly, I'm not sure how I'm going to manage," one employee said. "Merry fucking Christmas, right?"

Under Obamacare (officially called the Affordable Care Act, or ACA), large employers must provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more.

This new requirement was recently delayed until 2015, but Miami-Dade County Public Schools is cutting back its part-timers' hours now to avoid providing them health care in the future.

Multiple MDCPS employees interviewed by New Times say their hours are being cut from 30 to 25 per week. That's a 17 percent pay cut. Although a waiver will still allow someone to work more than 25 hours, employees say they have been told such waivers are out of the question in the future.

MDCPS spokesman John Schuster confirmed the cuts and their cause:

Fair Labor Standards state that over 30 hours is full-time employment, and this was in place long before the ACA. The District has always required a waiver for more than 25 hours. This does not affect full-time employees; however, it does apply to all part-time employees in the school district, including those district part-time workers at WLRN, which is licensed to the School Board of Miami-Dade County, and waivers have been submitted as needed. Other part-time workers in many departments across the District will be affected. ACA does exacerbate the situation because of requirements for employee health-care coverage.

Miami Dade College also reportedly imposed a 25-hour limit on part-timers earlier this year.

MDCPS employees are enraged by the cuts. Some see Obamacare as a convenient excuse the school district is using to simply slash its payroll.

"What are they going to do with all the money that they are saving by not paying us?" one MDCPS veteran asks. "Because it's a chunk of change. The employer mandate doesn't go into effect until 2015, so it looks to me like they are going to have a windfall because of this."

She says no one seems to have seriously considered the alternative: that the school district pony up and pay for health insurance for all employees working at least 30 hours.

"I'm sure it would be expensive to cover us," she says. "On the other hand, Starbucks continues to offer its employees health insurance. What's wrong with this picture? What's wrong with this country? Why is nobody talking about this?

"This is a lot of money and a lot of people we're talking about. It looks like they are going to make money on our suffering."

She adds that she makes so little as it is that she hasn't been to a sit-down restaurant in two years. Even then, a friend was buying.

"I guess what I need is another job," the MDCPS employee says. "I need a job that is going to pay me enough money to live on.

"I've spoken to these dogs and cats about getting a job to contribute, but they don't seem to be listening," she jokes before turning serious. "I don't know how I'm going to handle this, but it ain't gonna be pretty."

Still, she blames Miami-Dade County Public Schools, not the Obama administration. Her income will be slashed, and scraping by will be harder than ever, but there is a silver lining to this Christmastime cloud of misery.

"Because of Obamacare, I will have something that I haven't had for years, which is health insurance," she says. "Before, I was wondering if I was eligible [for a subsidy]. Now I definitely am."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.