OFF-THE-CUFF

Before you hook or slice into our editorial rough, remember to visit this page for instructions on how to nominate a friend or colleague for our annual Business Person of the Year contest. An expert panel of Minnesota State University College of Business professors selects three winners, with the top vote getter appearing on our January 2015 cover. Our contest has become a southern Minnesota business tradition. Mike Pinske of AmeriCare Mobility Van garnered last year’s laurels as Connect Business Magazine 2014 Business Person of the Year.

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Now to the rough: The editor had an eye-opening moment after reading details on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision allowing family-owned Hobby Lobby, under the Affordable Care Act, to opt out of having to offer insurance coverage for certain contraceptives the company believes cause abortions.

In sum, Hobby Lobby had no problem agreeing to pay for two types of birth control pills, female condoms, cervical caps, cervical shields, diaphragms, vaginal rings, sterilization implants, skin patches, spermicides, sponges, implantable rods, some IUDs, injections, and tubal ligations. What the closely held company vehemently objected to was being required by the federal government to also pay for certain IUDs and morning- and week-after pills, which Hobby Lobby considered abortifacients. After the Supreme Court ruling, Hobby Lobby will continue paying for a wide range of birth control interventions, but its employees—including those in Mankato—will have to pay out of pocket for what Hobby Lobby considers abortifacients.

As editor, I’m not taking any stand on this issue. Yet the ruling opened my eyes concerning something else.

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I heard over the radio at least one person knock the ruling as an example of what has been called by some pundits as a War on Women. After doing my own research into the ruling though, I began seeing contraceptive coverage under the new law from a different light: it’s sexist. It blatantly discriminates against men.

From what I have learned about how the Minnesota version of Obamacare works, women here now have healthcare coverage for a number of contraceptive choices, but not so for men. (Our thanks to Tim Schwartz of Brown & Brown Insurance for helping find this information.)

One Minnesota healthcare insurer, for example, covers women ages 12-64 for having an annual contraceptive counseling visit, and covers for diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, cervical caps, spermicides, female condoms, oral contraceptives, skin patches, shots/injections, vaginal rings, implantable devices, permanent birth control, and lastly, five types of emergency contraception, which Hobby Lobby likely would consider abortifacients.

Minnesota men ages 12-64 get nothing, nada, zilch. A double standard exists. For the record, the healthcare insurer referenced above makes quite clear the rules: “Male condoms are not eligible for coverage.”

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Now on to other fare. Minnesota Economic Trends (June 2014) reported that manufacturing means more to southwest and southeast Minnesota than it does to any other Minnesota region, accounting for nearly 68,000 jobs in almost 1,300 businesses in the combined regions.

Nationally, perhaps as many as 500,000 skilled manufacturing job openings exist. One big reason has been that Baby Boomers are retiring, but other factors have contributed to a skilled manufacturing labor shortage.

Perhaps the most striking reason for those half-million openings has been the male age 25-54 labor participation rate—historically the prime pool for these types of jobs. It’s near a record low. Men currently hold 73 percent of all manufacturing jobs, including an even higher percentage in manufacturing production, with women being more concentrated in manufacturing clerical positions.

Only 88 percent of American men in the prime 25-54 age bracket now are working or looking, primarily because of a steady rise over the years in the number of men in that group who are incarcerated, disabled or under-educated.

In terms of incarceration, male U.S. inmates outnumber female 15 to one and their numbers have hit record highs. Once released, many of these inmates will struggle being hired for skilled manufacturing jobs after having to self-report felonies on job applications.

In terms of disability, the U.S. now has nine million disabled workers (and two million others) receiving federal disability payments, double the amount from 1997, when the U.S. had only 4.4 million disabled workers. Of course, the number of disabled workers ages 25-54 has more than doubled, too.

As for being under-educated: About 25 percent fewer men than women now graduate every year from a U.S. college, with the number of female graduates being higher since 1985. In 2009, for example, the Census Bureau reported 685,000 men and 916,000 women graduated from college. Many skilled manufacturing jobs require a two-year college degree, and other manufacturing jobs, including those in management, financial or sales, often require at least a four-year degree.

If U.S. manufacturing must fill these half-million jobs, it would seem politicians or the industry itself either will have to take on the massive task of reducing the causes behind the high number of incarcerated men, tighten up disability eligibility requirements or encourage more men to seek education in skilled trades. The latter seems most likely.

Another solution—or part of it—could be for the schools to encourage more women into seeking skilled manufacturing careers, which U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has proposed.

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Thanks for reading your region’s first and only locally owned business magazine, the only one covering nine southern Minnesota counties since 1994. Be sure to nominate a friend or colleague for our Business Person of the Year contest.

Daniel Vance

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine

2 thoughts on “OFF-THE-CUFF

  • Avatar
    September 29, 2014 at 12:54 pm
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    A big part of the problem, which is largely ignored by the business community, is that stagnant or declining wages are a contributing factor, along with outlandish costs of higher education (particularly when seeking student loans).
    People are going to be reluctant to go deeply into debt in order to get training/education, when wages are so substandard, they know they’ll be working to pay off those student loans until they retire (that’s the position we’re in).
    This publication seems enamored of more tax cuts and fewer regulations for businesses, as though those are somehow panaceas for the economic woes we’re in; those are, in fact, CAUSES of the troubles.
    If business wants well-educated, well-trained workers, why aren’t business lobbyists working toward making student loan interest rates more favorable? Why aren’t they advocating for living wages (which drives increased consumer spending, which is the only REAL job creator)? Why do businesses shoot themselves, and others, in the foot by trying so desperately to cut costs on the backs of employees (also known as “customers”), thus taking money OUT of the local economy?

    Makes so little sense. But it sure makes DOLLARS for those at the top. How convenient.

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