Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wal-Mart and Health Care

As a response to reports that Wal-Mart and other large corporations are burdening the public health care programs of many states, groups like Wake-Up Wal-Mart and other concerned parties are encouraging state legislation that would mandate that the mega-retailer give its workers proper health care benefits.

This editorial from the Capitol Times (WI), responding to recent report about Wal-Mart’s reliance on the state’s Badger Care program, emphasizes the need for responsibility:

Despite the fact that the Wal-Mart retail behemoth collected more than $10 [b]illion in profits last year, the corporation has shown no interest in being a good corporate citizen of Wisconsin. Instead, the firm continues to raid the state treasury by steering thousands of its uninsured employees into the state's taxpayer-funded BadgerCare program, which provides access to health care for low-income workers and their families.
Some legislators, led by state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, and newspapers, including this one, have expressed concern about the way Wal-Mart and other corporations made their profits by shifting the burden for providing employee health care onto the state's shoulders. But, clearly, more pressure is needed.

So it is good to learn that Wisconsin Citizen Action and other groups will be turning up the heat on Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Walgreens and other large and profitable firms that expect the state to provide benefits for their employees.

"(We)will be targeting McDonald's and Walgreens," says Citizen Action's Darcy Haber. "Any big, profitable corporation that can afford to be offering health insurance for their employees should be doing the responsible thing and offering that health insurance coverage, because if not, they are part of the health insurance crisis we are facing now."

In particular, Wal-Mart needs to get whacked on this issue. But that will only happen if consumers put pressure on the image-conscious corporation to clean up its act, and if citizens let legislators know that they have a responsibility to protect taxpayers and workers by requiring Wal-Mart to steer a portion of its profits into taking care of its employees.
A similar, city-wide initiative, the New York City Health Care Security Act (HCSA), is being pushed by good folks at NY Jobs with Justice. They will be having a City Hall press conference tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. to tout the bill prior to a hearing on the issue. Here’s an except from their advisory:

With employer based health coverage in decline, responsible businesses that continue to provide health care are being undercut by unfair competition. More and more working New Yorkers are being pushed out of the health care system and into public assistance programs, where city taxpayers pick up the tab. On Thursday, June 9th, employers, workers, community leaders, and clergy will advocate for ending the “race to the bottom” by passing the Health Care Security Act.