Unions intervene in GGRA lawsuit

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By Sarah Phelan
Last week, a judge granted four unions--The S.F. Labor Council, SEIU Local 1021, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West and Unite Here Local 2—an intervention in the suit that Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a non-profit trade association, has brought against the City and County in the matter of the soon-to-be implemented San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance.
GGRA is arguing that the mandatory aspect of this local ordinance is preempted by federal law.
Specifically, GGRA’s beef is with the part of the ordinance that requires employers with 20 employees or more to spend a minimum amount per hour worked to provide health care benefits. Employers would also have to maintain records of health care benefit spending, record and report such spending and make records available for inspection. These mandatory requirements won’t be implemented until January 2008, but the City and County will start coverage of unemployed (and therefore uninsured) San Francisco residents, as of July 1, 2007.

GGRA is arguing that mandatory health spending requirements on employers conflict with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), including its central purpose of ensuring uniform nationwide standards governing employee benefit plans.
The City maintains that since it isn’t mandating that employers make payments into any specific plan, ERISA does not apply.
Up until the recent union intervention, the City and County was set to fight GGRA on its own. Now its hand is strengthened, given that it now has access to the lawyers of four unions. Expect fur to fly--and stay tuned.