Labor unions join City in health care lawsuit 

Labor unions can join the City Attorney’s Office in defending San Francisco’s new universal health care plan against a lawsuit filed by a restaurant association, a federal judge has ruled.

Under the San Francisco Health Access Program — created through legislation authored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano and backed by Mayor Gavin Newsom — every San Francisco resident, as well as nonresidents who work in The City, will eventually be provided with either employer-provided health care, a health savings account or city-provided health care.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Restaurant Association is opposing the plan through a lawsuit, claiming an employer-spending mandate written into the legislation violates federal law.

Employers with 20 workers or more will be required to invest $1.06 to $1.60 for each employee hour worked for health care under the new ordinance. Business leaders have said the required spending will create a hardship, particularly on small businesses.

Although the case is scheduled to have its first hearing in September, Newsom said The City is still moving full speed ahead with the program, which will enroll its first uninsured residents this summer.

On April 5, United States District Judge Jeffrey White granted a motion from the San Francisco Labor Council, Local 1021, Unite Here! Local 2 and the United Health Care Case Workers-West to intervene on behalf of The City against the restaurateurs’ lawsuit.

The right to intervene is granted if an organization can prove that it has a significant protected interest in the case, and if they assert that the existing parties may not adequately represent the unions’ interests, among other requirements, according to the court order.

Local 2 President Mike Casey said the unions’ request "in no way undermines our conviction or confidence with the city attorney," but was done merely to "add clout or add our voices in joining The City in their opposition to the GGRA lawsuit."

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Bonnie Eslinger

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