By Matt Murray
for the NH Labor News
|Photo from NYT Article
Here in Red Sox Nation we refer to the New York Yankee’s as the Evil Empire. In the world of Labor, Wal-Mart is our Evil Empire. It was announced on 10/22, that Wal-Mart, the nations largest employer would be making significant changes to their employee health care program. While the changes have not been fully released the New York Times has reported on some of these changes.
The first of the three major changes is that Wal-Mart will no longer allow part time employees (emps. who work less than 24 hours per week) a health care option.
The second is that if you work between 24 and 33 hours per week would qualify for health insurance coverage. The change is that now only employee’s and their children would be covered. Spouses are no longer covered.
The third change is to the full time employees. They will still qualify for health insurance, however they will be paying more per week and have significantly higher deductibles. Some of the deductibles are near $5000 per year.
In Wal-Mart’s 2012 health offerings, premiums will increase for some plans by more than 40 percent, although many of their workers pay relatively low premiums in comparison to more generous plans offered by other employers. But many Wal-Mart employees complain that their low premiums are accompanied by high deductibles that sometimes exceed 20 percent of their annual pay. (NYT)
Why is this happening? Well we all know health care costs have risen, and Wal-Mart is no exception. Is Wal-Mart in finical trouble? Well the fact is that Wal-Mart is the number one of the Fortune 500 companies. Last year alone they made 14.3 Billion dollars in profits. That is operating costs for the employment of 2.1 million workers nationwide. In times of economic depression, like we are in now, people are racing into Wal-Mart stores to save ten cents on a box of pasta. They are trying to save pennies where they can, and every penny counts right now.
So what can the Wal-Mart employee’s do about these changes? Right now, nothing. In my opinion the workers really only have one option, UNIONIZE! A few years back there was a bill in the US Congress that would make it easier for workers to unionize. It was called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). While it was supported by workers and labor unions, corporations like Wal-Mart feared it. Wal-Mart knew that if workers unionized it would cut into their profit margins, and they would have less “flexibility” to institute changes like these on Wal-Marts employee’s. So after months of fighting EFCA seemed to disappear after the 2010 elections. Now with an anti-union Tea Party in Congress we are not likely to see anything like EFCA again anytime soon.
So why should the workers unionize Wal-Mart? Unions have always fought for workers over profits. Without the protection unions provide we are likely to see more changes as Wal-Mart paves the way for Corporate America steamrolls its workers. Combined with low pay and no benefits some Wal-Mart employee’s are force to get programs like Medicare and Medicaid to get any health coverage. The same people in Congress who are making it hard to unionize are now also trying to take away their Medicare too. This will cause great social problems. Workers without health coverage are one hospital trip away from bankruptcy. So they will avoid going to the doctor knowing they can not pay for it.
Unions have always fought to ensure that every worker gets a decent pay and health coverage. Before the Unions fought for it health care options were not even offered. In 1997, the Teamsters went on strike agains UPS because UPS would not cover part time employee’s health care. Now all workers at UPS receive the company funded health benefits. With such friendly corporations like Wal-Mart it is no wonder that workers are protesting Wall Street. We need corporations like Wal-Mart to care more about their workers and less about their stock prices!