Giant, UFCW Lobby for ‘Wal-Mart’ Health Bill
By George Anderson
Call them strange bedfellows, but Ahold’s Giant Food chain and the union that represents its workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), are on the same side in supporting legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that would require companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least eight percent of their payroll on health benefits or pay the equivalent amount directly into the state’s health program for the poor.
Nate Hurst, a government relations manager for Wal-Mart, questioned Giant’s motives. “Is this bill really tackling health care for the state of Maryland or trying to get at one of Giant’s competitors,” he asked?
Giant Vice President Barry Scher told The Washington Post, “We believe there should be a level playing field for every employer in the state. When that does not happen, we all shoulder the cost of the uninsured.”
Mr. Scher estimates healthcare spending represents about 20 percent of Giant’s payroll costs. Mr. Hurst said seven to eight percent of the retailer’s payroll costs go to healthcare.
If the proposed bill became law, said Mr. Hurst, Wal-Mart would “have to rethink its future growth in a state that is willing to pass such a bad business bill. This type of legislation, where lawmakers single out one employer, does not create a favorable environment.”
Moderator’s Comment: Should large employers be required to spend a certain percentage of payroll on employee healthcare costs or pay an equivalent amount
into state programs designed to assist the poor and/or uninsured?
We can understand Wal-Mart fighting any bill that it believes singles it out to reduce its competitiveness. What we’re having a little trouble getting our
brain around is why, if the company is spending eight percent of its payroll on healthcare, does it need to fight a bill that would require it to spend eight percent of its payroll.
George Anderson – Moderator