As Maryland is about to pass legislation
that would require any company employing more than 10,000 employees in the state (which in Maryland, happens to only affect Wal*Mart), the retail monster is threatening to cut jobs and cancel development of a distribution center.
Wal-Mart's distribution center planned for Somerset County could be affected, the company said. The company is planning to build an approximately 1-million-square-foot distribution center in the town of Princess Anne. Hurst said the facility would initially employ 350, and after five years, up to 1,000. "The company is still working through plans to build a distribution center," he said.
Wal-Mart "will have to rethink its future growth in a state that is willing to pass such a bad business bill," said Nate Hurst, a government relations manager for the company. "This type of legislation, where lawmakers single out one employer, does not create a favorable environment."
Well, they are "singled-out" only because they are the only large employer in the state that does not provide broad health care benefits to its employees.
Wal-Mart is pointing a finger at Giant Food LLC and the union representing its employees as the lobbying force behind the legislation. And they are not pleading innocent:
Giant Vice President Barry F. Scher said that health care costs now account for 20 percent of Giant's payroll expenses. By comparison, Wal-Mart spends between 7 and 8 percent, Hurst said.
Scher said Giant is not singling out Wal-Mart. "We believe there should be a level playing field for every employer in the state," he said. "When that does not happen, we all shoulder the cost of the uninsured."
C. James Lowthers, president of Local 400, said the debate "is about what's right for the country."
"We have a system of health care through employers, and Wal-Mart is not providing an adequate plan." Lowthers said Local 400 waged "one of its most aggressive lobbying" efforts to win support for the bill in the General Assembly.
Is this relevant beyond Maryland? Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) says he will use the Maryland bill as a model for health care reform he intends to sponsor in Congress.
My opinion. Wal-Mart sucks and Maryland should pass the bill.
But you'll indulge me while I springboard to a broader issue, we need to attack the problem of skyrocketing health care costs beyond this type of employer mandate.
The FDA needs to get real funding and power and rein in out of control Big Pharma companies.
The current two-tiered system where many working poor, such as Wal-Marts low-level employees, can't afford preventive care and minor office visits, thus driving up urgent and emergency care costs later, is failing.
Thus the answer is universal coverage, whether by a single-payer system, or by employer mandate coupled with national buy-in groups for self-employeds, or by federal-state partnership and revenue sharing, we can debate, but allowing 40+ million Americans to NOT be insured is driving up costs and forcing more people to lose coverage.