The Jake Files

February 7, 2006

Wal-Mart’s Maryland Problem

Filed under: Economy & Business,Wal-Mart — Amazing Jake @ 10:53 pm

A retail industry association has filed lawsuits challenging the newly enacted Maryland law, which requires employers of over 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of their payroll on employee healthcare. 

Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com stated, “Today’s lawsuit is just another attempt by Wal-Mart and its allies not to pay its fair share for health care in the state of Maryland and elsewhere. The Maryland attorney general has already said Fair Share Health Care legislation is in compliance with the law.

“Wal-Mart would be better off changing its behavior and living up to its

responsibilities. States should be applauded, not sued, for trying to address the fact that in every state where we have data Wal-Mart is costing taxpayers millions by having more employees on taxpayer-funded health care than any other employer.”

What is the “fair share” of healthcare? 

I’m sorry, I missed the part where employers were obligated to pay any kind of benefits at all.  Maybe I haven’t been paying attention and the free market was suddenly replaced by, er, the not free market.

Did I miss something?

I am by NO means a supporter of Wal-Mart.  In fact, I find Wal-Mart’s monopolistic, bullying behavior to be reprehensible.  I’ve been personally involved in efforts to keep a Wal-Mart Supercenter from locating close to my neighborhood (so far, so good, but I’m not letting my guard down just yet).  I think Wal-Mart’s business practices, while good for the stockholders, are bad for neighborhoods and local economies.  I think it’s true that many Wal-Mart workers are forced to get on state assistance because they can’t afford insurance through the company.  I also think it’s true that that statistic is probably over reported and exploited by Wal-Mart opponents.

But you know what?  In a free market, Wal-Mart is free to pay their workers no more than the minimum wage, if that’s what they want to do.  They’re not obligated to pay benefits, if that’s what they want to do.  And employees and applicants are free to either work at Wal-Mart, if they think their compensation is fair, or NOT to work at Wal-Mart if they don’t.

For my part, I’m free to shop at Wal-Mart, if I believe their low prices are worth the crappy merchandise and I’m unconcerned with the balance of trade with China.  I’m free to shop at Wal-Mart if I enjoy the sight of empty nearby businesses blighting my neighborhood.  I’m free to shop at Wal-Mart if I believe their employees are happy, well-treated and compensated fairly.  I’m free to shop at Wal-Mart, if I think the ability to find a George Forman grill, a Macarena CD, and an 88-cent chrome plated piece of crap is worth having at 3:30 in the morning, after dodging garbage from RV campers in the parking lot. 

And I’m also free to shop somewhere else.  Which I do.  That’s the beauty of a free market.

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