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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 21, 2003
1:20 PM
CONTACT:  AFL-CIO
Sarah Massey at (202) 637-5018
AFL-CIO Study Documents Wal-Mart's Race to the Bottom on Health Coverage
Wal-Mart Exemplifies Harmful Trend Among Large Firms to Cut Employee Benefits
 
WASHINGTON - October 21 - Wal-Mart exemplifies the harmful trend among America’s large employers to shirk health insurance responsibilities at the cost of their workers and the community, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO. With reduced coverage and increased workers’ premium fees, Wal-Mart -- the largest private employer in the U.S. -- sets a troubling standard. Fewer than half of Wal-Mart workers are insured under the company plan -- just 46 percent. This rate is dramatically lower than the 66 percent of workers at large private firms who are insured under their companies’ plans, according to a new Commonwealth Fund study released today which documents the growing trend among large employers to drop health insurance for their workers. Wal-Mart’s workers also pay an exceptionally large proportion of health plan coverage. The typical employee at large companies pays 16 percent to 25 percent of total health plan premiums, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report. The AFL-CIO’s study reports that Wal-Mart requires its workers to make exceptionally large contributions to health care costs -- 42 percent of the total cost of the plan.

As 70,000 grocery store workers are on strike to keep affordable health care, Wal-Mart’s role as the force driving the race to the bottom in health care benefits has risen to center stage. “The grocery store workers striking with the UFCW are taking a stand for all American working families who are being squeezed beyond their limits by our broken and inadequate health care system,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “As Wal-Mart continues to leech off communities, forcing taxpayers and workers to pick up health care costs, it does tremendous damage as it drives other companies to do the same.” While historically providing good health benefits to their employees, the supermarkets now argue that they must shift greater costs onto workers in order to counter the cutthroat competition they face from Wal-Mart.

Workers who do not receive health coverage on the job and cannot afford the rising cost of private plans seek out health care from the public system, or go without, according to both studies. “This downward spiral translates into even greater demands on public health care programs, and ultimately our nation must find a policy and legislative solution to take this burden off working families and communities,” said Gerald Shea, the AFL-CIO’s Director of Governmental Affairs. Shea pointed out that the state of California recently passed a health care bill that mandates employers to cover their employees. “This policy attempts to end the cost shifting onto its public health care system by employers. Federal policy to moderate rising costs of private health care is also needed,” Shea said.

To receive a copy of the new Wal-Mart report, please contact Sarah Massey at (202) 637-5018 or download the report here.

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