Wal-Mart, SEIU Join Forces for Universal Health Coverage Plan
Wal-Mart Stores and the Service Employees International Union on Wednesday in a joint news conference will announce "a major new campaign with a focus on health care," according to a news release issued Tuesday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports (AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/7).
The news conference "caps months of secret conversations" between Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott and SEIU President Andrew Stern, and it "could be the beginning ... of a détente between the nation's largest employer and its labor critics," the New York Times reports. Scott and Stern "have established one of the fiercest rivalries in the American economy," but both have said that affordable health insurance is one of the biggest issues facing their organizations, according to the Times.
During the news conference, Wal-Mart and SEIU are expected to announce their intentions to increase support for universal health coverage by a specific date, possibly by 2012. In addition, the two groups will emphasize shared responsibility between individuals, businesses and the government in financing health care and expanding coverage (Barbaro/Pear, New York Times, 2/7).
Executives from AT&T, Intel and Kelly Services also will participate in the press conference (AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/7). Representatives for Stern and Scott both declined to comment on the announcement of the campaign.
Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor issues at the University of California-Berkeley, said the meeting represents "a combination of pragmatism, idealism and desperation on the part of Wal-Mart and SEIU; health care has become a devastating issue for both" (New York Times, 2/7).