Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

EDITORIAL: Court's Hobby Lobby ruling helps workers and employers

The Gazette editorial Published: July 6, 2014

Government should force employers to craft health care plans as conceived by politicians, without regard for traditional employer-employee relationships or the values of companies.

That's the way Washington autocrats, who think they know what's best for employees, apparently wanted it.

They used phrases such as "free contraception," implying hardworking Americans would get a big new gift from Uncle Sam. They created needless division that challenged fundamental religious liberty. It wasn't about money, as the whole affair involved relative pocket change. This was about control.

In its decision to free Hobby Lobby and other closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, the Supreme Court removed one sliver of government's new intrusion into employer-employee relationships, arrangements that have historically been private contracts between companies and individuals or unions.

Mandatory contraception pay seems particularly farcical in the context of Hobby Lobby, or any desirable employer that pays attractive wages to compete for good workers.

The Planned Parenthood website explains an individual's birth control pills or the patch cost between $15 and $50 each month. A cervical cap, which provides long-term prevention, costs about $35 a year - or $2.91 a month. Condoms are distributed free by health clinics and cost about 20 cents each at a pharmacy. A diaphragm averages $60 a year. A Depo-Provera shot, good for about three months, costs about $35. Even premium options - IUD, sterilization and vasectomy - are within reach of higher-paid unskilled workers if they properly manage take-home pay.

David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby, pays employees what they're worth and trusts them to spend as they see fit. They can buy birth control, abortions or prayers from preachers on TV. Green has no right to manage money that goes home with associates. Only government wields and imposes such control of compensation, via benefit mandates.

Green exemplifies the ideal employer. His first success came in the early '70s with one store that took off when hippies went on a bead-buying binge.

He opened other stores, frequently adding inventory to suit demands of changing trends. Today, the merchant owns more than 500 craft stores. He's worth billions and says his money belongs to God's people. So he gives away hundreds of millions to orphanages and other good causes.

More importantly, he creates jobs Americans need. They're good jobs, mostly for creative young people with aspirations for professional vocations.

Green has more than 22,000 employees and plans for hundreds of new stores. As of April 2013, the lowest-paid full-time workers have earned nearly double the minimum wage. When he raised the lowest hourly wage to $14, it was the fifth consecutive year of raises.

"We know our company would not be successful without the great work they do each day in our stores across the nation," Green said.

Green will tell you his motivation to succeed, to create good jobs and wealth he can share, is all about God. His faith and business can't be divided, but he felt the contraceptive mandate threatened to do just that.

Some don't understand or respect his beliefs and would like him to set them aside at work. But founders of this country protected a marketplace of contrary and competing ideas when they protected the exercise of religion from government intrusion.

Employers try to pay wages that attract the best employees they can afford who offer the skills they need. It's good clean business, and the payroll imposes no moral agenda. They don't need Washington nannies redirecting more of the earnings their employees should control, especially in a way that imposes controversial agendas. The Supreme Court got this one right.

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