wal-mart is vulnerable

I just got this by way of Daily Kos… It looks as though Wal-Mart, our country’s largest private employer, is finally taking some heat for its “let’s treat our workers like shit” human resources practices. Specifically, individual states are getting pissed that they’re having to subsidize the employees of Wal-Mart with taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid. In a year in which every state in the union is strapped for cash, it’s not difficult to see why they’d look to Wal-Mart, a successful company that took in $288 billion last year (with over $10 billion of that being profit), and ask, “Why is it that you aren’t insuring your own full-time employees?” (The argument, you’ll notice, has had nothing to do with the rights of the workers or the morality of Wal-Mart, just the cost to the states. This is a perfect example of where, by just getting the states to do what is in their own best interest, we’re getting an improved situation for workers.)

Thirteen states are presently seeking to force changes that would see the retailer cover its own healthcare costs. Three of the most notable cases are being brought by New Jersey, Florida and Maryland… Here’s a clip from the Florida article that I just linked to:

Five employers in Florida account for 29,000 Medicaid-eligible individuals (employees or dependents). Wal-Mart’s share represents 42 percent of that group. In Georgia, children of Wal-Mart employees made up over 10,000 of those on Georgia’s health-care program for uninsured kids, the PeachCare for Kids program. The next largest employer, Publix, had only 700.

Wal-Mart sees no problem with this. For evidence, you can go straight to the top. In a two-day “open house” with the press at Bentonville, Ark., headquarters earlier this month, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was asked why so many Wal-Mart employees are getting their health care from public assistance programs instead of their employer. Scott said, “In some of our states, the public program may actually be a better value – with relatively high income limits to qualify, and low premiums.”

Government programs are a safety net for low-income Americans, not a competitor to the largest, most profitable company in the world. But more importantly, Scott is admitting that Wal-Mart takes advantage of public health programs for its own competitive ends: It passes costs onto taxpayers as a business strategy – not as an unfortunate consequence of some heretofore unrealized deficiency in its health-care program.

This might be the tipping point we’ve all been waiting for… I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted April 21, 2005 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I have a different view on this. I kind of wonder what will happen when big companies like Walmart start lobbying for a national health plan so they wont have to pay health care for their workers. I know that some of the big auto companies are already doing this. They have even made public statements that they cant compete in a world market because they have to pay for worker’s health care when car companies in other countries dont have to because of national health care plans.

    And even though I hate Walmart, I do think that anything that moves our country in the direction of a national health care plan is probably a good thing.

  2. chris
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Yes, this would be the tipping point. I highly agree w/ Lynee. I don’t expect Walmart to go under but would find it highly ironic that their cannabilistic capitalism would provoke national health care.

  3. mark
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    If I had more time/energy, I’d try to organize some kind of nationwide letter-writing campaign… Wouldn’t it be cool if thousands of people started writing to their governors, demanding to know just how much of “our money” goes toward insuring the employees of our nation’s largest company.

  4. chris
    Posted April 21, 2005 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Yes, forward your idea to MoveOn, ACT, maybe?

  5. Posted April 23, 2005 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    it’s the vulnerability of wal-mart that i think makes it so damn sexy.

    kind of like the ‘softer side’ of sears.

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