Critics Say Opening of Wal-Mart Stores in Contra Costa County Could Affect Health Care System
Wal-Mart "faces a critical showdown" in Contra Costa County next month when voters decide on a referendum to repeal a ban on construction of the chain's supercenters, which opponents say could "drain" county health care resources because the company does not offer adequate health benefits, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hallissy, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/8). A report issued by the Bay Area Economic Forum found that Bay Area grocery workers could see their wages and benefits drop by as much as $667 million per year if Wal-Mart supercenters claimed an 18% share of the grocery market (Oakland Tribune, 2/9). Amy Hill, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, said that more than 90% of Wal-Mart workers have health benefits, including more than 40% who are covered by entities other than the company (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/8). She also disputed the numbers from the BAEF report, saying "The calculations on which [the researchers] based their findings are either grossly underestimated or grossly overestimated" (Oakland Tribune, 2/9).
The issue of whether Wal-Mart can open supercenters in California has become controversial in recent months, contributing to the ongoing grocery worker strike in Southern California. Several cities and counties in the state have passed bans on construction of the supercenters, but Wal-Mart chose to challenge the ban in Contra Costa because demographically it is most similar to the state as a whole, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.