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Obama slams Staples on health care

Posted On: Feb. 11, 2015 12:00 AM CST

Obama slams Staples on health care

(Reuters) — President Barack Obama singled out office supply giant Staples Inc. as undercutting his health care reform law and said large corporations should not use the health insurance issue as an excuse for cutting wages, the news website BuzzFeed reported.

"It's one thing when you've got a mom-and-pop store who can't afford to provide paid sick leave or health insurance or minimum wage to workers, but when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers' wages, shame on them," President Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in 2015, employers with 100 or more employees are required — to avoid a big financial penalty — to offer coverage to employees working 30 hours a week or more. In 2016 and succeeding years, the ACA employer mandate applies to employers with at least 50 employees. Reuters has reported that some businesses are keeping staffing numbers below 50 or cutting the work week to less than 30 hours to avoid providing employee health insurance.

Staples, the No. 1 U.S. office supplies retailer, has told its employees not to work more than 25 hours per week, according to a BuzzFeed report on Monday.

Staples CEO Ronald Sargent brought home $10.8 million in total compensation in 2013. The company reported net profit of $620.1 million in net profit through Feb. 1, 2014.

"There is no reason for an employer who is not currently providing health care to their workers to discourage them from either getting health insurance on the job or being able to avail themselves of the Affordable Care Act," President Obama said in the interview Tuesday.

"I haven't looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security, and if they can't, then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages," President Obama said.

Staples shot back on Wednesday, saying the company's policy on part-time workers was more than a decade old and not a response to the 2010 health care reform law.

"Unfortunately, the president appears not to have all the facts," Staples spokesman Kirk Saville said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that the president is attacking a company that provides more than 85,000 jobs and is a major taxpayer."

Nearly 7.5 million people have signed up for 2015 health plans through the exchange with demand increasing as the Feb. 15 enrollment deadline approaches, according to government figures.

Staples and No. 2 office retailer Office Depot Inc. announced last week a $6.3 billion plan to join forces to compete against big box stores and online rivals.