Friday, November 18, 2005

Anti-Wal-Mart Bill in Maryland

The on-going battle to abuse Wal-Mart continues next year in Maryland, when a bill that passed last year but vetoed by Governor Bob Ehrlich, is taken up again.

The bill, which only affects Wal-Mart, would require the company to spend 8% of its payroll on health benefits or face a special tax to contribute to the state's Medicaid fund. Obstensibly the bill is targeted at any company with more than 10,000 employees in the state. While there are other companies in the state with more than 10,000 employees, most other companies spend more than 8% on health benefits.

This bill is a direct attack on Wal-Mart, in fact it is referred to in the Legislature as the Wal-Mart bill. The bill, and many other just like it, fail to understand why Wal-Mart doesn't pay its employees full health benefits like other companies--and it has nothing to do with greed.

Wal-Mart, like many retailers, employs a large contingent of part-time workers. Thus a large segment of their payroll does not include people who are eligible for health benefits. Another large segment of workers are elderly people--yes that is right, elderly. Wal-Mart is probably the largest single employer of workers over the age of 65. A fair number of elderly workers work at Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons; to supplement their retirement income, for social reasons or simple to do something with their time. Many of these elderly people do not need health benefits from Wal-Mart because they have Medicare or some other health coverage.

Wal-Mart also employs a large seasonal workforce-particularly in this time of the year. These people also don't qualify.

Finally, Wal-Mart has a large younger workforce who also have a high turnover. High School and college students who work at Wal-Mart (and there are a lot of them) are often covered under their parents insurance--thus they don't need health coverage.

So, I would expect that at any given time, fully 1/3 to 40% of Wal-Mart's work force, for one reason or another does not qualify for or opt into the Wal-Mart health plan. Such conditions automatically mean that the total Wal-Mart payroll contribution to health plans is going to be lower than employers of similar size.

This bill is simply another case of envy and lack of understanding of how Wal-Mart works. By the way, if working at Wal-Mart is so bad, why do so many people work there and continue to work there--all without Union protection? A good question.

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