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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Mormon-owned DI cuts workers’ hours, avoids Obamacare rule

As the nation anticipates further implementation in January 2014 of the Affordable Care Act, which requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide insurance for their full-time employees, LDS Church-owned Deseret Industries has cut its workers’ hours to fewer than 30.

In doing so, DI, as it is known, will not have to provide health coverage for these employees.

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In recent years, the DI has become one of the premier places in Utah where refugees and others can find work.

Its one-year training program allows people fleeing from any number of war-torn countries to learn the skills, including English, to find better employment. The workers are given an hourly wage, starting at $7.25 and increasing incrementally depending on quickness at sorting clothes.

But they do not get health insurance, according to LDS Church spokeswoman Ruth Todd.

Todd explained the cuts as a way "to serve as many people as possible."

Reducing the trainees’ hours, she said, "has allowed for a dramatic increase in participants."

Other large employers — public and private — have been adjusting workers’ hours in advance of the Obamacare coverage requirement.

Granite School District, for instance, will be trimming the hours for hundreds of part-time workers. Granite officials note the district has never provided health benefits for part-time hourly workers, and they deemed the price tag too steep to begin doing so.

Judi Hilman, executive director of Utah Health Policy Project, said that refugees, like all citizens, are eligible for premium tax subsidies and Medicaid, depending on their income.

But, Hilman added, "we wish large employers would not do this."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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