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September 8, 2005

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott Addresses WakeUpWalMart.com at Boston Conference

Boston – This morning, after being greeted by more than 50 supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com, Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott addressed the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign directly. Mr. Scott was making a presentation at the Prudential Equity Group Back-to-School Consumer Conference in Boston.

Mr. Scott began his remarks by first acknowledging WakeUpWalMart.com’s supporters and then went on to say, “”When it comes to the group outside it is the largest most well financed corporate campaign in the history of business.”” Scott continued, “”This is not going away…this is a significant issue we face.””

“”Wal-Mart is right about one thing – WakeUpWalMart.com will not go away until Wal-Mart makes real changes, not just today, but everyday,”” said Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com’s campaign director. “”The American people expect no less.””

Mr. Scott also suggested our campaign to change Wal-Mart is “”directed at slowing this company down.”” He continued, “”this is not a matter of Wal-Mart just needing to hire public relations people. …We believe this will be a strategy we have in place for a long time. …We recognize that…and we continue to make significant improvement.””

Reflecting on Wal-Mart’s efforts in the Katrina aftermath, Lee Scott said the lesson was, “”when you do the right thing good things accrue to you.”” We agree. So, Mr. Scott, we challenge you to ‘do the right thing’ and address our genuine concerns of poverty level wages, no company health care for 52% of your associates, child labor law violations, gender discrimination, and other important issues we have raised.

“”If Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates anything, it is that Wal-Mart can choose to change and do the right thing, but everyday it does nothing to address the health care and economic crisis facing working America,”” said Blank.

September 7, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com Reaches Record Milestone of American Support

Washington, D.C. — WakeUpWalMart.com, the group leading the national fight to change Wal-Mart, announced today it has achieved a record milestone of support. Over 66,215 Americans have now joined the WakeUpWalMart.com movement, which was launched on April 5th of this year. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign now enjoys growing grassroots support in all 50 states.

“”All across America, from towns to cities, from red states to blue states, Americans have made our campaign a true grassroots movement. We will not stop fighting. We will use every political, legislative, economic, and legal tool available to grow this movement into an army of change. In the days ahead, on behalf of the American people, we will change Wal-Mart into a corporation that reflects the best of American values,”” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com

In just five months, WakeUpWalMart.com has become one of America’s fastest growing political and social movements. Supporters of the effort have signed on to the campaign at public events held by the group or via the campaign website, WakeUpWalMart.com. The group also officially announced that its next goal is to reach 150,000 supporters by December 31st, 2005.

“”WakeUpWalMart.com is a powerful, broad-based, movement to change the largest corporation in the world. Our supporters will take the fight for a better America to Wal-Mart from one corner of this nation to the other. We will not rest until this company ‘wakes up’ and does what is right for its workers, our families, our communities, and the nation,”” added Paul Blank.

With the support of over 66,215 Americans, the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign has successfully led the national fight to change Wal-Mart. Among the many accomplishments of the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign and its supporters include:

  • Launched the “”Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart”” Mother’s Day Campaign where 21,788 Americans signed the “”Love Mom, not Wal-Mart”” pledge and promised to not purchase their Mother’s Day gift at Wal-Mart until the company addressed its record of discriminating against 2 million women.
  • Coordinated a National “”Mother’s Day of Action”” on May 7th in 26 states and 70 cities and towns to raise awareness about Wal-Mart’s record of gender discrimination.
  • Hosted a press conference with several key Members of Congress, including Rep. Rosa De Lauro. Rep. De Lauro then released a “”Dear Colleague Letter”” from 51 Members of Congress asking Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to release wage data to investigate claims of gender discrimination.
  • Mobilized thousands of supporters to successfully force Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to end the “”Wal-Mart Nazi Ad”” and publicly apologize for using the ad against Arizona citizens who opposed Wal-Mart.
  • Launched the “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” campaign with a series of press conferences in 8 states and 325 Meet-Ups in over 270 cities involving over 10,000 supporters of Democracy for America (DFA) and WakeUpWalMart.com. Press conferences with civic, community, and labor leaders were held in Concord, NH; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Madison, WI; Little Rock, AR; Austin, TX; Hartford, CT; and Atlanta, GA.
  • Hosted a press conference with Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Corzine, and Representative Anthony Weiner to introduce the Health Care Accountability Act – the first national legislation that would expose the true cost that American taxpayers bear because Wal-Mart forces tens of thousands of its workers onto public health care, like Medicaid.
  • Held house meetings in 134 cities and 38 states where nearly 2,000 citizens agreed to become citizen co-sponsors of “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will be leading the effort to introduce “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation in all 50 states in the coming months.
  • Officially launched on June 23rd our “”Community Fight Campaign”” that provides the most comprehensive strategies and tools to help supporters and activists fight the destructive effects of Wal-Mart in their community.

The efforts to change Wal-Mart will reach a new level in the coming days and months as WakeUpWalMart.com prepares to mobilize its supporters in a series of new campaigns that will reach out to Americans all over the nation.

September 7, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com Joins with New York City Leaders to Celebrate Passage of Health Care Bill

Washington, D.C, – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s national campaign to change Wal-Mart, proudly joined with NYC Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Councilwoman Christine Quinn, Jobs With Justice, the Brennan Center, and other community, civic, and business leaders from all over New York City to celebrate the passage of the Health Care Security Act (HCSA). As many as 42 New York City Councilmembers co-sponsored the legislation which enjoys wide support among many employers within the business community.  The bill is expected to officially pass the New York City Council with broad support today – August 17, 2005.

“”This is not only a great day for New York City, it is a great day for all Americans who believe profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, have a responsibility to do what is right and provide health care for their workers,”” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

The Health Care Security Act is a historic piece of legislation as it represents the first attempt in the nation to establish a “”health care minimum wage.”” The bill will also hold employers, like Wal-Mart, accountable for failing to provide health care coverage for their employees. The legislation will be one of the first laws in the United States to require employers to pay for their employees’ health care.

HCSA already enjoys wide-spread support among New York City businesses, including Fairway, D’Agostinos, Key Food, Pathmark, and Stop & Shop. As many as 12,000 employees and their families in the grocery industry in New York City could gain health care as a result of the bill. The bill would also help protect the health care coverage for over 44,000 workers and their families.

“”It is incredible to see New York City’s elected officials unite with business, labor, and community leaders to pass a law that provides health care for thousands of more Americans. This should serve as a wake-up call to companies, like Wal-Mart, that New Yorkers expect corporations, not taxpayers, to provide health care for their workers,”” added Paul Blank.

The passage of the HCSA in New York City represents growing national momentum to make employers, like Wal-Mart, care about health care and provide affordable and comprehensive health care coverage for their workers. Already, as part of WakeUpWalMart.com’s “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” campaign, thousands of Americans are leading statewide efforts to introduce “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation. WakeUpWalMart.com, and its 68,000 supporters, are committed to introducing “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation in all 50 states by early next year.

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WakeUpWalMart.com is leading the national effort to change Wal-Mart’s health care practices. Among the many accomplishments of the group include:

  • The launch of the “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” national campaign. As part of this initiative, a series of press conferences were held in 8 states with community and civic leaders Supporters of the launch of this health care campaign also took part in over 325 Meet-Ups in over 270 cities involving over 10,000 supporters of Democracy for America (DFA) and WakeUpWalMart.com. Press conferences with civic, community, and labor leaders were held in Concord, NH; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Madison, WI; Little Rock, AR; Austin, TX; Hartford, CT; and Atlanta, GA.
  • Hosted a press conference with Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Corzine, and Representative Anthony Weiner to introduce the Health Care Accountability Act – the first national legislation that would expose the true cost that American taxpayers bear because Wal-Mart forces tens of thousands of its workers onto public health care, like Medicaid.
  • Held house meetings in 134 cities and 38 states where nearly 2,000 citizens agreed to become citizen co-sponsors of “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will be leading the effort to introduce “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation in all 50 states in the coming months.

 

August 29, 2005

When Will Wal-Mart Demand An Investigation of Wal-Mart?

Washington, DC – Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart and ASDA, its British subsidiary, achieved a new level of global irony this weekend calling for a government investigation into the market dominance of one of its foreign competitors, TESCO. As reported by The Sunday Times, Scott demanded that the British Government investigate its chief grocery rival TESCO because of what Scott sees as the company’s growing market dominance in Britain. Scott stated that “”as you get to over 30 percent and higher, I am sure there is a point where government is compelled to intervene….at some point the Government has to look at it.””

“”Scott criticizing TESCO for its market dominance is like Enron criticizing Arthur Anderson for its accounting practices.  Wal-Mart is using its immoral business practices as a competitive advantage over responsible corporations.  The question for Wal-Mart should be when will Wal-Mart demand an investigation of itself?”” said, Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com

Lee Scott’s statement is especially ironic in light of the facts about Wal-Mart’s market share here in the United States.

Here are the facts:

  1. Wal-Mart accounts for 60% of the sales for the $379 billion market called Discount Department and General Merchandise stores.
  2. Wal-Mart’s general merchandise dominance means it has sales nearly 5 times more than their next closest competitor and double the sales of their next 3 closest competitors (Costco, Target and Kmart) combined.
  3. Wal-Mart controls approximately 24% of grocery sales in the United States (more than double its next closest competitor), very similar to TESCO’s position in the United Kingdom.
  4. Wal-Mart sells more groceries than their top 3 competitors combined.
  5. Wal-Mart sells 30% of household staples bought in the United States, including items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and paper towels, according to Business Week.
  6. A report prepared by Retail Forward in 2003 forecasted that Wal-Mart’s domestic supermarket-type sales could go from an estimated $82 billion to $162 billion by 2007. In the process, Wal-Mart will consume almost a third of the expected growth in US spending on grocery and drug products during 2003-2007. Growth of this magnitude would give Wal-Mart control of 35% of food store industry sales and 25% of the drug store industry – and put many entrenched players in jeopardy.
  7. Grocery Industry statistics Ranked by Percentage:24% Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club
    10% Kroger
    7% Albertson’s
    6% Safeway

    Discount department & General Merchandise stores ($379 billion) Ranked by sales:

    Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club $229 bill
    Costco $47 bill
    Target $47 bill
    Kmart $20 bill

 

August 10, 2005

AMERICA’S TEACHERS & WAKEUPWALMART.COM OFFICIALLY LAUNCH NATIONAL “”SEND WAL-MART BACK-TO-SCHOOL”” CAMPAIGN

Washington, D.C. – Today, all across America, over 2000 elected officials, teachers, civic and community leaders, and students officially launched a new campaign to highlight Wal-Mart’s failures and its negative effects on our communities, our families, and the nation’s children. The “”Send Wal-Mart Back to School Campaign”” is part of a first-time nationwide effort being led by the two largest teacher’s groups in America, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), and WakeUpWalMart.com – America’s national campaign to change Wal-Mart.

The “”Send Wal-Mart Back to School”” campaign began with over 30 coordinated press conferences in 20 states where various leaders, like Senator Jon Corzine, Members of Congress, state officials, labor representatives, local teachers and students asked all Americans to sign WakeUpWalMart.com’s “”Back-to-School Pledge.”” Americans who sign the pledge agree to not buy their Back-to-School supplies at Wal-Mart until the company becomes a more responsible corporate citizen.

“”Every day Wal-Mart’s so-called ‘low prices’ comes with too high a cost for our families and our children. Starting today, Americans will have the opportunity to teach Wal-Mart a lesson that corporations have a responsibility to do the right thing,”” said Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com Campaign Director.

As part of the press conferences, local teachers released the “”Wal-Mart Report Card”” – a 3-foot-by-5-foot replica of an actual report card that displays Wal-Mart’s failing grades and shows how Wal-Mart has repeatedly failed American families and children by offering poverty level wages and poor benefits, by abusing taxpayers, by having discriminated against 2 million women, and by breaking child labor laws.

“”Wal-Mart has failed America for too long. This Back-to-School season, all Americans can help send Wal-Mart this message – our children are not a commodity to be exploited. Clearly, our children deserve better than Wal-Mart,”” added Paul Blank.

At the press conference, speakers also released a letter sent to Lee Scott, CEO, of Wal-Mart. In the letter, Scott was asked to adopt a nation-wide “”zero tolerance policy”” and promise the American people, and his shareholders, that he would resign if Wal-Mart were found guilty – again – of breaking child labor laws. The letter will be posted on WakeUpWalMart.com.

Press conferences were held in over 30 cities, including:

Boston, MA; Hartford, CT; Albany, NY; New York, NY; Paterson, NJ; Commack, NY; Providence, RI; Springfield, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Edgewater, NJ; Cleveland, OH; Louisville, KY; Columbus, OH; Toledo, OH; Cincinnati, OH; St. Louis, MO; Kansas City, MO; Albuquerque, NM; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Oshkosh, WI; Minneapolis-St Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Las Vegas, NV; Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; San Jose, CA; Oakland, CA; Denver, CO

The “”Send Wal-Mart Back To School”” campaign is the latest effort in the growing national campaign to change Wal-Mart led by WakeUpWal-Mart.com. Already, over 67,000 Americans in all 50 states have joined our campaign to “”Wake-Up”” Wal-Mart and change America’s largest employer.

August 8, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com Statement on Gender Discrimination Hearing

Today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the largest class action gender lawsuit in U.S. history.  The lawsuit affects nearly 2 million former and current Wal-Mart female workers.

“”It is simply un-American for Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, to have systematically discriminated against 2 million of its female employees.  We can only hope – for the sake of all current and former Wal-Mart women workers – that Wal-Mart will stop trying to fight this lawsuit and instead will finally wake-up and do what is right.

The gender discrimination lawsuit really demonstrates Wal-Mart’s two faces.  Wal-Mart smiles because it is able to tightly control every part of its business, but Wal-Mart frowns when someone holds them accountable for their bad behavior.  Wal-Mart’s argument that this case is too big is two-faced and silly.  Wal-Mart knew it had a problem, but chose to do nothing about it.

On behalf of all Americans, and all female workers, we will make sure Wal-Mart is held accountable for its abandonment of moral values in the relentless pursuit of greed.

Sadly, for too long, Wal-Mart has chosen a path that not only disrespects and mistreats its female workers, but all workers.  By paying poverty level wages, failing to provide affordable company health insurance, exploiting immigrant and child labor, and shifting their costs onto the American taxpayer, Wal-Mart has chosen to do what is wrong at the expense of what is good for its workers and America.””

Wal-Mart and Gender Discrimination

More than 700,000 women work for Wal-Mart, which makes the Company the largest private sector employer of women in the United States (Wal-Martfacts.com)

Analysis done in 2003 showed that while 2/3s of the company’s hourly workers were female, women held only 1/3 of managerial positions and constituted less than 15 % of store managers.  (Financial Times, 11/20/03)

For the same job classification, women earned from 5% to 15 % less than men, even after taking into account factors such as seniority and performance.  This divide in pay has been growing over time.  (“”Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce””, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003)

In 2001, women managers on average earned $14,500 less than their male counterparts. Female hourly workers earned on average $1,100 less than male counterparts.  (“”Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce””, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003)

In 2001 six women sued Wal-Mart, claiming the company discriminated against women by systematically denying them promotions and paying them less than men. The lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, has expanded to include more than 1.6 million current and former female employees, and was certified on June 21, 2004 as the largest class action lawsuit ever. It is now being appealed by Wal-Mart.

Patterns of discrimination in promotion and pay were found in all regions where Wal-Mart operates in the United States. (“”Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce””, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003)

Documents produced during discovery showed that Wal-Mart formed a diversity committee in 1996, but, instead of implementing the committee’s recommendations, disbanded the panel. Two years later, Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination problem actually got worse.  [Bloomberg, 7/15/05]

An internal Wal-Mart document entitled, “”Minority/Gender Pay Analysis”” dated July 21, 2000, specifically states, “”Generally, average salaries for female and minority males are below the overall average pay for most jobs. Average pay increases for minority males and females are generally below overall average income ratio across most jobs.””  [Bloomberg, 7/15/05]

This led Jeffrey Reeves, a former vice president for personnel at the company’s Sam’s Club unit in a January 2003 deposition, when asked about whether or not management wanted to seriously address diversity, to state, “”I would say a lot was lip service.””  [Bloomberg, 7/15/05]

August 2, 2005

The ‘Wal-Mart Health Care Crisis’ Grows

The state of Arizona released new numbers showing Wal-Mart has over 2,700 employees and dependents, nearly 10% of its workforce in Arizona, receiving health care at the expense of Arizona taxpayers.

“”Everyday new numbers reveal the sad truth about Wal-Mart’s poor health insurance – Wal-Mart profits and the American taxpayers pay,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Nationwide, Wal-Mart fails to provide company health insurance to more than half of its employees – that’s more than 600,000 Wal-Mart workers with no company health insurance.  Wal-Mart’s poor health care not only contributes to our nation’s health care crisis, it forces tens of thousands of their workers to rely on taxpayer funded public health care assistance.

Most outrageous is that Wal-Mart knows it has a problem, but, despite their $10 billion in profits, chooses to do nothing to address this serious issue. Just last week, the Arkansas Democratic Gazette reported Ray Bracy, Wal-Mart Vice-President for Federal and International Public Affairs, said Wal-Mart has “”a lot of people on state rolls. We wish it wasn’t so.””  Even Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, explained that the reason so many Wal-Mart workers were on public health care was that it was a “”better value”” than the health care coverage Wal-Mart, the #1 company in the Fortune 500, provides.

“”Wishful thinking is a poor excuse for failing to provide company health care to more than 600,000 workers,”” said Blank.  “”It is downright un-American for Wal-Mart to force taxpayers to foot their health care bill. It’s time for Wal-Mart to wake up and do the right thing.””

July 24, 2005

WAL-MART IGNORES INTERNAL INVESTIGATION FINDINGS

Statement by Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com’s campaign director on the startling new revelations from Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination lawsuit, Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores.

According to internal documents and depositions, Wal-Mart was warned that it
may have a discrimination problem and chose to do nothing about it.  Wal-Mart formed a diversity committee in 1996, but, instead of implementing the committee’s recommendations, Wal-Mart disbanded the panel.  Two years later, Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination problem actually got worse.

In fact, an internal Wal-Mart document entitled, “”Minority/Gender Pay Analysis”” dated July 21, 2000 specifically states, “”Generally, average salaries for female and minority males are below the overall average pay for most jobs.  *Average pay increases for minority males and females are generally below overall average income ratio across most jobs.””

This led Jeffrey Reeves, a former vice president for personnel at the company’s Sam’s Club unit in a January 2003 deposition, when asked about whether or not management wanted to seriously address diversity, to state, “”I would say a lot was lip service.””

“”Today, we are stunned by Wal-Mart’s blatant disregard for women and minorities.  Wal-Mart’s greed caused more than 1.6 million of its female employees to suffer.  Wal-Mart needs to stop paying, in its own employee’s words, “”lip service”” to its discrimination problems and tell the American people the truth.””

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Wal-Mart has ignored or disbanded the findings of an internal investigation.  In 2000, for example, an internal Wal-Mart audit found “”extensive violations of child labor laws and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals.””  In just one week, the audit found 1,371 violations.  Wal-Mart chose to stop the audit and as a result children suffered.  Just 3 weeks ago, Wal-Mart was fined once again for repeated child labor violations in Connecticut.

“”Wal-Mart wants to ignore serious problems at the expense of women, children and our country.  The American public is going to hold Wal-Mart accountable for the high cost we all pay for Wal-Mart’s $10 billion in profit.””

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June 23, 2005

Kennedy, Corzine and Weiner Introduce New Health Care Legislation to Hold Companies, like Wal-Mart, Accountable

Washington D.C. – Today, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Jon Corzine and Representative Anthony Weiner announced the introduction of the Health Care

 

Accountability Act (HCAA) to expose the growing problem of profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, forcing workers onto public health care designed for the needy. The legislation is an important first step in the growing national campaign to “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” launched by WakeUpWalMart.com.

The HCAA bill will expose the “”Wal-Mart Health Care Tax”” – the price we all pay because Wal-Mart fails to provide its workers with affordable health care.  Not only do more than 600,000 Wal-Mart workers go without company provided health insurance, but tens of thousands of their employees are forced to rely on taxpayer funded public health care.

“”Wal-Mart’s poverty wages, high deductibles and strict eligibility requirements force tens of thousands of their employees to rely on taxpayer funded public health care,”” said President Joe Hansen.  “”The Wal-Mart health care crisis costs taxpayers over $210 million and counting.  It is simply un-American and unfair for a company with over $10 billion in profits to shift their costs onto us.””

The HCAA requires all states to gather and release the number of employees that companies have on taxpayer funded public health care. The gathering and disclosure of this data is critical to estimating the considerable cost taxpayers already bear because of the failure of large, profitable employers who force workers and their families onto public health care assistance.

“”Programs like Medicaid provide a critical safety net for low-income women and children, the disabled and the elderly and shouldn’t be a profit center for large companies like Wal-Mart,”” said Senator Ted Kennedy.

In at least 12 states, Wal-Mart has more employees, spouses and dependents on state public assistance than any other employer in the state.  In the state of Georgia, for

 

example, more than 10,000 children on PeachCare (the state’s health care program for low income children) had parents working for Wal-Mart at an estimated cost of $10 million per year.  The next largest employer only had 734 children in the program.

“”Americans pay a high price for Wal-Mart’s race to the bottom.  We deserve to know the truth about the high cost of Wal-Mart’s greed,”” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

At the press conference, WakeUpWalMart.com revealed the “”Wal-Mart Health Care Tax”” bill, a 3-foot-by-6-foot replica of an actual “”Wal-Mart bill.”” The bill displays the estimated dollar cost U.S. taxpayers pay for Wal-Mart’s failure to provide health insurance to their workers.  A large map of the United States was also displayed to symbolize “”America’s Hidden Health Care Cost”” – the 4-foot map of the United States that will display how little state data is available and how hidden the cost to taxpayers and our health care system remains.

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Background
Wal-Mart, a company with $10 billion dollars in net profit last year, fails to provide health care for more than 52% percent of its 1.3 million workers. In 12 of 13 states with released and analyzed data, Wal-Mart workers rely on public health care, like Medicaid, more than the workers of any other employer.

As a result, in state after state, Wal-Mart is directly shifting its health care responsibilities onto American taxpayers. Central to the campaign will be a grassroots effort to build public and political pressure against Wal-Mart to address its part in America’s health care crisis, as well as a call for legislative action that will ensure Wal-Mart – not taxpayers – pays its fair share for health care in each and every state.

The “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” campaign initiative is part of a nationwide effort to change Wal-Mart led by wakeupwalmart.com

May 19, 2005

UFCW LOCAL 400 SAYS: EHRLICH PLAYS POLITICS WITH STATE

LANDOVER, Md. – Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s announced decision to defy the public’s will and veto the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act tomorrow is a despicable example of the governor playing politics rather than addressing the critical issue of Maryland’s rapidly growing number of uninsured, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 said.

“We had hoped that when considering the Fair Share bill, Gov. Ehrlich would be big enough to get beyond his cozy relationships with Wal-Mart and other Big Business backers, and side with the majority of people in the state,” Local 400 President Jim Lowthers said. “But it appears that the governor is turning his back on working families.”

A poll released in January showed that nearly 8 in 10 Maryland voters agree that businesses with 10,000 employees or more should be required to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care insurance, which is what the Fair Share legislation would require. Maryland lawmakers answered the public’s call, passing the Fair Share bill with overwhelming support.

Lowthers pointed out that Maryland’s Fair Share law has been widely praised nationally, and that legislators in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin have introduced similar legislation. “We believe the people’s representatives in Maryland will override the veto when they convene next year,” he said, “but it’s a shame that Gov. Ehrlich has chosen to throw up this roadblock on behalf of Wal-Mart.

Gov. Ehrlich’s decision to announce the veto in Somerset County at the site where Wal-Mart plans to build a new distribution center, and in the presence of a top Wal-Mart executive, is a political ploy that may backfire, Lowthers warned.

“Ehrlich will say that this is about jobs, but it’s really about taking advantage of taxpayers,” he said. “Even with Fair Share, Wal-Mart was forging ahead with its plans to build the distribution center because it can’t afford not to, considering the sweet deal the Ehrlich administration has handed this billion-dollar company.”

Maryland not only is contributing $500,000 to improve infrastructure to facilitate access to Wal-Mart’s planned distribution center, but the state also is paying almost half of the cost to purchase the 178-acre site, according to published reports. In addition, the company is being handed $5.7 million in tax credits.

“Maryland taxpayers are going to paying for these jobs for years to come, particularly since most of the employees, like other Wal-Mart workers, won’t be able to afford the company’s health care plan and will apply for public assistance,” Lowthers said. Wal-Mart employees eligible for the company’s plan must hand over about a fifth of their paychecks to cover Wal-Mart’s premiums, often more than $200 a month per worker – a steep price considering most earn between $8 and $10 an hour.

Wal-Mart appears to be the only large employer that falls below the minimum 8 percent, although Wal-Mart claims the difference is minimal. Research by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, however, indicates that Wal-Mart spends as little as 2 percent to 3 percent of its payroll on health care, draining $30 million a year from our local economies in tax-supported benefits.

Meanwhile, some of Maryland’s other largest employers, like Giant Foods and Northrop Grumman, are already paying their fair share. These companies, each of which employ more than 10,000 workers in the state, pay well above the 8 percent of their payrolls to provide decent health coverage. In the case of Giant Foods, a competitor of Wal-Mart’s, “doing the right thing puts Giant at a disadvantage and gives Wal-Mart an unfair advantage in the grocery business,” Lowthers said.

Pointing to a recent $1,000-a-head fundraising dinner for Ehrlich hosted by Wal-Mart, Lowthers challenged the governor to explain how he would solve a health care crisis that is aggravated by the employment policies of his political benefactor.

“Maryland legislators answered the call to fix our health care system, taking a good first step by passing the Fair Share bill,” Lowthers said. “Ehrlich, however, has chosen to ignore the health care needs of Maryland’s working families while agreeing to subsidize the poster child for bad corporate citizenship.

“Marylanders have every right to ask themselves whose side Ehrlich is on,” he said.

UFCW Local 400 represents approximately 40,000 workers in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and the District of Columbia.