Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wal-Mart Cries for Help

Acting as if his company was the struggling corner store, Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott told the National Governor' Conference on Sunday that his chain needs help with spiraling health care costs. Yeah, as if he were actually paying health benefits to the majority of his workforce.

If this wasn't so sad it would actually be quite funny since Scott claims that the company's health care costs "have risen 19% in each of the past three years and it's only a matter of time before it, along with other businesses, cannot sustain rising costs." Especially, we should add, those others that are truly covering their workers at the same time they're trying to compete with the Wal-Marts and BJ's of the world.

What is heartening is that it appears as if the campaign against the retail giant's poor record on benefits is beginning to bear fruit. As reported in AMNewYork (courtesy of the Associated Press),
"Under mounting criticism Wal-Mart last fall offered new lower-premium insurance aimed at getting more of its work force on company plans."
There are even new provisions that cover children of part-time workers.

All of which comes at a time when Wal-Mart is still the country's leader in employees on the government dole. Last Friday the Columbus Dispatch informed its readers that the retail giant "had the most workers on government health insurance rolls" in the state of Ohio (ahead of McDonalds).

At the same time that Lee Scott is trying to play catch-up and burnish his company image he couldn't resist taking a shot at health care legislation that is aimed at compelling companies to get their employees off the public rolls. He resents the requirement that companies "spend an arbitrary percentage" of payroll on benefits.

We're all for a nationwide approach to reining in health care costs. Wal-Mart, however, is the most inappropriate spokesman for this effort.