January 23, 2006
Wal-Mart Health Care Bill Gets Poor Reviews In Evergreen State

They love Wal-Mart in Oakland, but not maybe not in the fractionally quasi-liberal Eastern Washington outpost of Pullman. The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Developmnent (PARD) is fighting a proposed Wal-Mart, and Palousitics blogger Tom Forbes has news of projections the store would boost retail sales and tax revenues in Pullman. Another post from Tom regards an economic impact study on the store, and claims by a Washington State University professor that bright lights such as those from the proposed Wal-Mart could increase impotence among Pullman men.

Just a tiny, tiny bit more plausible, maybe, is the AFL-CIO's effort to tag Wal-Mart for additional health care costs. But the initiative isn't getting great reviews here in Washington State.

Read on (Mac Safari users click on time stamp to continue).

Both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Tacoma News Tribune have editorialized against Democrat sponsored legislation in Olympia that would require private-sector employers of more than 5,000 workers to spend at least 9 percent of their payroll on health care, or pay the state the difference. Here's the TNT:

Three years ago, a state report identified Wal-Mart as the employer with the most workers — 341 — on the state’s Basic Health Plan, which at the time covered 125,000 Washington residents who made less than twice the federal poverty level. For perspective, consider the size and makeup of the Wal-Mart workforce, which in Washington numbers 16,000, makes an average hourly wage of $10.61 and is roughly 30 percent part time. It’s not surprising that some of those workers would be eligible for the state plan. In their defense, Wal-Mart officials say they offer 18 health care plans and pay two-thirds of the premiums. All Washington Wal-Mart workers are eligible for health care benefits, and 57 percent of them have opted to enroll, according to the company.

Nonetheless, failed Democratic congressional candidate Don Barbieri, chairman of Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels, tells Business Week he likes the AFL-CIO initiative because emergency rooms, and thus the public and responsible companies like his, end up paying for health care of Wal-Mart employees. But that's a pretty simplistic claim. Not only because a fair share of Wal-Mart's employees have coverage through the company, but most of the rest through other means.

Commenting on a recently-approved measure in Maryland similar to that now before Washington state legislators, Bryan O'Keefe and Richard Vedder of the American Entrerprise Institute write in the Washington Examiner:

The real motive behind the legislation wasn't to solve serious health care problems, but rather allow unionized competitors of Wal-Mart like the United Food and Commercial Workers to punish their non-unionized rival, Wal-Mart....While it is true that less than 50 percent of Wal-Mart employees have company-provided health insurance, the vast majority of the remainder has some form of insurance, such as coverage under a spouse's insurance plan or through Medicare....the percent of Wal-Mart workers receiving Medicaid is in line with the retail trade industry generally.

Yes indeed, it's getting clearer every day: free markets play a starring role in the horror story that is capitalism.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at January 23, 2006 02:30 PM | Email This
1. Yeah, I've been watching this from The Political Teen and this is yet another misguided hit job.

Problem is, this is too little too late too loser to stop the real issues: Outsourcing of American jobs and globalization itself.

Posted by: A Watchdog on January 23, 2006 02:51 PM
2. I have some mixed feelings on this WalMart thing. What the unions and the Democrats are doing now is atrocious.

At one time, I could agree with the rhetoric of the health care issue. I could agree with WalMart coming into a town and drying up the moms and pops.

But then I started thinking. You know, the people working at WalMart wouldn't be able to get a job at another place and the numbers of employees has to be greater than the Democrat/union darlings- Costco. Have you ever gone into WalMart and couldn't find an employee to help you out within about 20 feet? Have you ever been into Costco, KMart, Lowe's, Target, etc. and found anybody within even shouting distance? So, good job WalMart.

And then the argument about destroying mom and pop jobs. The people that complain about that shut up really quick when I ask them about KMart, Target, etc.. You see, the Democrats/union never put out talking points on those megacompanies. So, come on unions, play fair and be square if you want me on your side.

Posted by: swatter on January 23, 2006 03:29 PM
3. Swatter, I noticed that as well about their communications. I know some people who are union workers in a non-related fields (firefighters, hospital workers). Talking with them I found out that none of them will shop at Walmart because of their "union busting" policies. They are very conscious of who's a union shop and who isn't and their loyalty follows. Kind of like how NASCAR fans buy the products of the companies that sponsor NASCAR, which in turn helps the sport itself...

Union workers I've encountered are fiercely supportive of other unions and will ALWAYS take the side of a union even when it is unrelated to their field.

As for the Walmart in Pullman, having lived there for a while, I can tell you that I frequently made the 8-mile journey to the Walmart in Moscow. Being a poor grad student, I needed to save every penny. And I certainly was not alone. Before every semester, the place was packed with WSU students.

Posted by: Palouse on January 23, 2006 03:51 PM
4. The real question is why would they even want one in Pullman? With our B&O taxes especially. There is a Wal-Mart just 5 miles away in Moscow, ID where the taxes aren't bad.

Posted by: Cliff Smith on January 23, 2006 04:15 PM
5. You'd be amazed at how lazy alot of college students are...they don't want to drive 8 miles to go Walmart in Moscow. I knew WSU students who had never been across the border there to Moscow, which is a shame because the bars in Moscow were alot better.

Posted by: Palouse on January 23, 2006 04:22 PM
6. You're right. Given Washington's higher sales tax, higher minimum wage, higher B&O taxes, and more restrictive labor laws, we should be on our knees thanking Wal-Mart for picking Pullman. The fiscal impact study showed that half of every dollar spent by a Pullman resident is spent in Idaho. A city can't survive long like that in the post I-695 world.

Most full-time residents do support Wal-Mart. The opponents are the usual suspects: intellectual and social elitists, ultra-liberal profs, activist students, aging hippies, etc. I think the vast majority of WSU students could care less.

Posted by: Tom Forbes on January 23, 2006 05:18 PM
7. I don't shop at Walmart because the products are shoddy, the service is marginal and the usual customers make it seem like the circus came to town.

I do love WalMart for 3 reasons.

-They will go to the mat with you on any frivolous lawsuit, regardless of legal expense.
-They are hated by unions.
-They introduce much needed competition in the market place.

Posted by: Andy on January 23, 2006 05:39 PM
8. The pervasive criticism of Wal-Mart gives the collectivists their best shot at a "universal health care" program, so I don't expect the idea to go away soon.

If they can enact a law requiring big employers to spend a certain proportion of revenue on employee health care, they can then go after the others. (Not many of those beloved "mom and pop" small businesses that are supposedly unfairly put out of business by Wal-Mart offer health care benefits to their handful of employees, but you won't see anyone talking about forcing them to shell out for such benefits anytime soon.)

I hope this particular proposal prompts some people to wonder whether it makes sense for us to provide health care via the government for the needy, then complain about the cost to government when not all private employers offer benefits comparable to government jobs. If you take on the task of paying, why complain that someone else hasn't already done it?

The rationale seems to be as you've described it: Union members don't want the competition. After all, unions exist primarily to restrict competition.

Posted by: Micajah on January 23, 2006 06:45 PM
9. Here's the deal: They don't like Wal-Mart because it doesn't care to be unionized, is successful, and reportedly contributes big to republican causes. We see right through yah, libs!

Posted by: Realist on January 23, 2006 07:11 PM
10. Can someone refresh my memory on how much of a tax break Boeing is getting from the state of Washington. Was health care for citizens of this state under consideration when that tax break was given.

Posted by: Steve on January 23, 2006 07:45 PM
11. "Concerns also have been raised about noise and light pollution, including a much-discussed claim by Washington State University Professor James Krueger on Jan. 13 that light pollution could cause Pullman men to become impotent. He based the claim on research involving deer."

Do we really want WSU students reproducing anyway?

Posted by: James on January 23, 2006 10:39 PM
12. You'd be amazed at how lazy alot of college students are...they don't want to drive 8 miles to go Walmart in Moscow. I knew WSU students who had never been across the border there to Moscow, which is a shame because the bars in Moscow were alot better.

Hmm, weird. I graduated from WSU in 2002, and I never had a problem driving to Moscow. Although I hated, and continue to hate Wal-Mart for essentially the same reasons as Andy, I wasn't aware that some people didn't go just because it was a few miles away. People without cars I guess, but other folks?

Posted by: Cliff Smith on January 23, 2006 11:25 PM
13. I agree with Andy's reasons for loving and not shopping at Walmart. I shopped at the East Bremerton Walmart several times in the 90's and liked the selection and prices on the products I was shopping for. Then one of their half-wit, untrained cashiers cheated me and I had to battle it out with an "English is a third language" store manager. I announced to the manager, cashier and a half-dozen customers that "I would never darken the door of a Walmart again", and have faithfully kept my pledge. Wouldn't you know it? The primary store in the new mall in Poulsbo (about a mile from my 3rd generation family farm) would be none other than Walmart. #*?&!@%#!!!!

Posted by: Saltherring on January 24, 2006 06:34 AM
14. I wasn't aware that some people didn't go just because it was a few miles away. People without cars I guess, but other folks?

It's true. I lived in a few areas of town, from a house right near campus to the neigborhood behind Dissmores and then over by Bishop Blvd. When I lived near the water tower behind Dissmores, the students nearby me would never even go across town to Safeway ever, even though the prices there were often quite a bit lower than Dissmores. I met alot of people who never went over to Moscow because even that 8 miles was too far for them, and they had cars.

Posted by: Palouse on January 24, 2006 07:28 AM
15. I have a niece who is in high school and is in need of a job to support her car. I asked her if she tried WalMart because it pays better than the retail stores she had submitted applications to- PacSun, for one.

She replied, "Ummm, no, it is not a good place to work." I go, "huh? What do you mean? It pays more than these others stores you are trying to get a job at? And you aren't going to be there forever! So, what's the problem?" That took her back a little. I had this discussion with her in front of some diehard union relatives who remained quiet.

Posted by: swatter on January 24, 2006 07:44 AM
16. The funny thing about WalMart is no matter what road-blocks city councils put in front of their building permits, the store puts up with it, complies and still draws a crowd. Covington made it a nightmare to put one in including not giving the store visibility from the main road, and umpteen thousands in landscape and traffic management requirements. The store is constantly busy. AND when you go in there's a wall with a list of donations made to local charities, youth programs and such. They made those before the doors opened. Some to local PTAs. I wonder how many dollars the teachers unions contributed to the PTA's versus the promotion of the levy(s) we're voting on. Also, I looked at the ankles of every employee (that sounds wierd I know) but I didnt see a single person with a chain holding them to their station. They come back daily by free will. Hmmmm.

Posted by: PC on January 24, 2006 07:54 AM
17. There is simple solution but unfornately the legislature will never entertain it. Walmart (and other large companies) should just pay the government for whatever government welfare it's employees use. Walmart would have a choice pay the government or pay private firm. It would quickly find out it is cheaper to pay a private firm for health care etc.
A perfect market solution for the problem.

Posted by: M&M on January 24, 2006 09:07 AM
18. m&m, sounds good for a liberal and typical first emotional thought.

Think a little deeper, please. How about companies that overpay for unemployment compensation? How about L&I rates? For example, you liberals are trying to eliminate the incentive for local builders to keep their workplace safe.

You guys just need to overhaul the government.

And why don't you start by getting rid of all the TajMahal's the Gregoires have been constructing in Olympia and throughout the state for your bloated government?

And, if you pick on WalMart, pick on Target and Costco and KMart, too. Be consistent, please!!!

Posted by: swatter on January 24, 2006 10:53 AM

Posted by: tTACOMA PHLASH on January 24, 2006 11:09 AM
20. I wonder if M&M understands the significance of what you just said.

Posted by: swatter on January 24, 2006 11:26 AM
21. I wonder how many state and local government employees or contractors are on the Basic Health Plan?

Posted by: dan on January 24, 2006 12:22 PM
22. There is no law that an employer needs to provide health care & it's probably time that most of them discontinue it and let employees buy their own. Health care is not a right; it's a perk just live vacations, retirement programs, etc. although the unions woulld like their members to think it is a right. Wal-Mart usually finds a way around most obstacles where it wants to build & many business owners have said that having a Wal-Mart has made them more competitive and better in the long run. Those that fail probably fail for other reasons that have nothing to do with Wal-Mart coming into an area.

Sure, Wal-Mart has some so-so merchandise but so do other stores. You have to pick & choose what you are willing to pay for, but if you buy a national brand at Wal-Mart, it's the same as you would get at Sears, Target, Macy's, etc. If I wanted higher-end merchandise, I wouldn't go to Wal-Mart in the first place because they are not trying to get the Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom shopper.

BTW, one reason I do shop at Wal-Mart is because it is non-union. I support any company that can keep it's employees happy without union membership. As someone said above, they have no shackles on their ankles, so Wal-Mart must be doing something right.

Posted by: Clean House on January 24, 2006 12:54 PM
23. WalMart smells like the old Woolworth's in my days. 5 cent candy bars and chocolate at 1/2 price after Easter.

Posted by: swatter on January 24, 2006 01:23 PM
24. A couple of things here:

Number one, nobody in this country is denied health care. All comers are taken care of and in some instances they don’t even have to pay. Nobody in the country is denied health insurance. All you have to do is pay for it. Now if it comes out of your wages before you get the check or you buy it on your own (like I do because I am self employed), you still pay for it AND it would be a lot cheaper if the state would get their grubby little paws out of it. If you CHOOSE to not have health insurance (for a huge variety of reasons) you have nobody to blame but yourself. If Wal-Mart doesn’t give you what you want as an employee, than get a job that does.

Wal-Mart has 80% of their employees signed up for health care (or insurance). That is far above the average of 60% nationwide for business generally.

It occurs to me that Wal-Mart pays to the state of Washington a huge amount of taxes (B&O is on GROSS receipts so that is quite a bit, not to mention sales tax). I suspect that some of those taxes should be used for that health care that the state says Wal-Mart is gypping the employees out of.

The end result of all of this will be that Wal-Mart will have higher prices and that will hurt only the poor and the poor retired by taking more out of their limited budgets. Precisely the folks that the liberals profess to care so much about. And it will hurt far more than then employees it is supposed to “help”. Since Wal-Mart operates on a 1or 2 percent profit (1% is the real number I believe) woth these extra costs, Wal-Mart will also hire less employees and that won’t help those of limited experience/skills who need Wal-Mart jobs.

This is simply a concerted, nation-wide effort by the unions to stick it to Wal-Mart. The AFL-CIO has pulled the strings on the Wisconsin (I think that is where it was) legislature a few weeks ago to pass this thing (but there it was 8%) and 30 other legislatures nation-wide. They wanted a payback for $$$ they’ve tossed at Democrat elections and this is it.

I also believe that if Wal-Mart takes this little puppy to the Supremes, it will be ruled unconstitutional. A little to narrow.

Hey where is Mr. X when you need a goofy opinion?

Posted by: Steve-O on January 24, 2006 02:08 PM


Posted by: TACOMA PHLASH on January 24, 2006 03:06 PM


Posted by: TACOMA PHLASH on January 24, 2006 03:06 PM
27. Hey, my 70 something mom says the same thing, except she doesn't like it.

Posted by: swatter on January 24, 2006 04:40 PM
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