Wal-Mart’s CEO, H. Lee Scott, made a pitch to the nation’s governors yesterday to ease up their campaign to force the company to provide health care to more employees. The reason the governors are concerned is that every Wal-Mart employee who either doesn’t qualify for the company’s health care plan or can’t afford to pay for it is potentially another applicant for Medicaid and other state-financed health programs. The governors are getting wise to this corporate shell game and putting the screws on the company. That’s the only reason that the company recently announced it was “sweetening” its health plan to cover more workers and shortening the period of time before an employee could begin to use the benefit.
That’s also the reason that the company, run largely by white executives but frequented by minority customers and staffed also by minorities, just hired Andrew Young to lobby on its behalf. The cynical strategy: let’s hire that Black man to show that we care about our wage-slave minority employees. And here is what the former UN ambassador and civil rights icon had the gall to say on his new client’s behalf:
”They are some of the best entry level jobs that are available to poor people. And they also make products available to the working poor.”
He neglects to complete the thought: “they are some of the best jobs available for poor people AND they’ll sure stay poor as long as they remain in them.”
Here’s the NY Times account of Scott’s speech:
The executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., said that state bills aimed at improving Wal-Mart’s benefits “may score short-term political points, but they won’t solve America’s health care challenges.”
Mr. Scott said that Wal-Mart’s health plans were “not perfect” but that the company was committed to improving the health care system by expanding its benefits and by opening low-cost medical clinics for workers and the public in its stores.
Trying to broaden a debate over employer health care plans that has focused heavily on Wal-Mart, Mr. Scott said: “At the end of the day, this is not about me. It is not about Wal-Mart. And it is not about you. It is about all of us and what we can do to keep this country great.”
He claims the state bills “won’t solve America’s health care challenges” as if that was the responsibility of these governors. No, their only responsibility is to solve their states’ health care challenges. And Wal-Mart’s working poor employees (average salary–$20,000) ARE a burden on state budgets. Which means that the state bills are precisely appropriate ways to address the problem caused by Wal-Mart’s benefit-poor working environment.
And don’t you just love that last paragraph in which Scott begs for “understanding.” It’s not about me. It’s not about Wal-Mart. It’s about what we can do to make this country great. Who does he think he’s talking to? FoxNews? I hope no governors were fooled by this trash-talk. If Scott or his company gave a damn they’d make a small corporate contribution to making this country great by enabling their employees to maintain their health.
My advice is cut the crap, boss. Do right by your employees and give them honorable health benefits so they can take care of themselves and their children.
In case, we entertained any notion of Scott’s sincerity on these matters, listen to how he slyly criticizes state health plans for being TOO GENEROUS to the working poor:
Mr. Scott, referring to Wal-Mart workers on Medicaid, said: “Do we want more of our associates’ kids on our health plans? Of course we do.”
But Mr. Scott hinted at another reason so many of his workers were on Medicaid. “Have many states made Medicaid programs far more generous in order to cover the kids of working families? Yes, they have.”
So, he’s saying that if your states would stop providing coverage for children, then his employees wouldn’t be a burden on the state; AND he wouldn’t have to come up with improved health benefits for his own employees. Do I hear the word “cynical” anyone? It reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s remarkable satire, A Modest Proposal, in which he suggests that one way to ease the Irish famine would be to eat Irish babies thus easing the burden on both the starving poor and Ireland’s English rulers. All I can say is eat your heart our Mr. Scott, that is, if you actually have one.
I’m pleased to know that my own governor wasn’t buying any of Scott’s crap:
Christine Gregoire, the Democratic governor of Washington, said that 20 percent of Wal-Mart workers in her state received public health care assistance. After Mr. Scott’s speech, she said that this was “a problem that he has to solve.”