Press Conference: Health Benefits at Wal-Mart

On Wal-Mart’s website you will find a report on patriotism. More than 3,200 Wal-Mart workers are on active duty. To help them, Wal-Mart claims that they continue their benefits and make up the difference between their military pay and the regular Wal-Mart wages. That’s not a very difficult thing to do when only 48% of Wal-Mart employees are covered by Wal-Mart’s health insurance and the employees end up paying 40% of the cost.

Now compare that to working at a store like Cost Cutter, which provides health insurance for 95% of its employees, or compare that to similar benefit packages at Fred Meyer, Larry’s, QFC, and Bartell’s. All of these businesses don’t try to cheat employees on health insurance. Costco is a direct competitor of Wal-Mart. Costco provides health coverage for almost all of its workers.

Even a small business like Dick’s Hamburgers has a much bigger community conscience than Wal-Mart. Dick’s provides 100% employer paid health insurance and subsidized dental insurance for every employee who works at least 24 hours a week.

So which business is patriotic: Wal-Mart which skimps on their employees every day of the week, or our own home-grown businesses like Larry’s and Dick’s that actually respect their employees? Wal-Mart claims they make up the difference between military pay and Wal-Mart pay. That sounds good, but when the average Wal-Mart wage is $9.96 an hour they are probably billing back their employees for making more than when they were Wal-mart slaves. Compare this to the average wage of $15 at Food Pavilion and the starting wage of $10 at Costco.

So which business is patriotic: Wal-Mart which pays so little that its employees qualify for state healthcare subsidies, or our own home-grown business, which don’t call their workers associates but do treat them with respect?

American patriotism isn’t about how much money you make, but Wal-Mart executives seem to think so. Their CEO made over $12 million last year. Patriotism is not about enriching the heirs of the already wealthy, but Wal-Mart would have you believe so. The Walton children own 40% of Wal-Mart stock, meaning that of the $10 billion in net profits in 2004, they got to scoop up $4 billion between the five of them. What did Costco’s CEO make in the past three years? About $350,000 annually and no bonuses, either.

We like to say in the aftermath of September 11, “United We Stand.” Many good businesses practice that with respect for their employees, but Wal-Mart, the largest company in the world practices a different approach–divided they stand, between the extremely wealthy owners and the workers they pay a pittance. Wal-Mart is intent on undermining the American middle class. As patriotic Americans, we have to stop them from doing that, now.

Posted in Health Care