Wal-Mart Imposes Financial Burdens on Local Governments, Congressional Report Says
The "[s]ubstandard" health benefits and pay available to Wal-Mart employees impose financial burdens on local governments, which ultimnately provide workers with subsidized medical care and other taxpayer-supported services, according to a congressional report released Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) unveiled the report at a news conference in Contra Costa County, where residents in two weeks vote on Measure L, which effectively would ban Wal-Mart Supercenters in unincorporated areas of the county (Burress, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17). The measure would prohibit retail stores larger than 90,000 square feet that devote more than 5% of shelf space to nontaxable items, such as groceries (Peele, Contra Costa Times, 2/17). Several California cities and counties have passed bans on construction of Wal-Mart Supercenters. The company chose to challenge the proposed ban in Contra Costa County because the county is demographically representative of the state as a whole (California Healthline, 2/10). The 22-page report, issued by the Democratic staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee, says that an average Wal-Mart store with 200 employees costs taxpayers $420,750 per year. A typical Supercenter has 400 to 500 employees, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17). Wal-Mart does not provide health insurance to employees who work fewer than 34 hours a week, and "those workers go to public hospitals, and everybody picks up the tab," Miller said (Contra Costa Times, 2/17). Mona Williams, chief spokesperson for Wal-Mart, said the report's figures are "pure fantasy," adding, "His so-called study is clearly aimed at pleasing the labor unions who make up such a large part of his financial support" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17). According to Amy Hill, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, more than 90% of company employees have health benefits, including more than 40% who are covered by plans other than what is offered by the company (California Healthline, 2/10). Williams added, "More than 40% of associates ... on our health care plan had no coverage at all before coming to Wal-Mart." She said without Wal-Mart, those people might have "truly become a financial burden to local communities" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.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.