Wal-Mart announced today that it was backing Obama’s government health care plan. The discount retail giant was joined by the Service Employees International Union and the left-wing Center for American Progress. CQ reports:
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced Tuesday that it would support a mandate on businesses to help expand health care coverage, an about-face from other business interests that have strongly opposed any such requirement.
But this is not a sudden “about-face.” Wal-Mart and the SEIU, still bitter enemies on most other policy and employment matters, first joined hands on health care two years ago. The unholy alliance was forged out of mutual desperation and political expediency.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced its position in a letter to congressional and administration officials Tuesday. It was joined by a major labor union that sometimes has criticized Wal-Mart as stingy with employee benefits.
“We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage,” the letter said. “Any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level employees.”
That was a reference to some proposals in Congress to have employers pay the Medicaid costs of new hires. Critics say that would discourage the hiring of low-income people.
The letter was also signed by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has more than a million members and counts more U.S. health workers than any other union. Also signing it was John Podesta, who headed Obama’s transition team and is president of the Center for American Progress.
Wal-Mart wants the union thugs off its back. Stern wants more power and publicity.
Take this marriage for what it’s worth.
Timothy Carney has more.
Amusing aside: Wonder what the Congressional Black Caucus is thinking right now? Flashback:
The Service Employees International Union has angered a number of African American House members by protesting Wal-Mart’s involvement in a Congressional Black Caucus fundraiser.
The conflict between two mainstays of the Democratic Party began after Anna Burger, SEIU secretary-treasurer, wrote caucus members “to express our disappointment that the Congressional Black Caucus has given Wal-Mart an opportunity to fashion a false image as a friend of African Americans and of working people generally.”
SEIU and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sponsored an April 27 caucus fundraiser. The union has criticized Wal-Mart’s personnel practices as anti-labor.
Caucus member Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) described the letter as “presumptuous.”
“The attitude of the letter was that somehow we were allowing someone to do this as though we had no free will or common sense,” he said.
The CBC chairman, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), said, “I couldn’t imagine them writing a similar letter to other members of Congress, Democrats, Blue Dogs [conservative Democrats], Republicans.”
Wynn and Watt argued that it would make no sense for the caucus to break off ties with Wal-Mart officials, noting that at meetings with the company caucus members have raised many of same issues of low pay, limited fringe benefits and outsourcing to China that concern labor leaders.
The dispute was first reported Tuesday by the Hill newspaper.
“As the largest employer in the world, Wal-Mart’s labor relations model is now undermining standards for all American workers,” Burger wrote in her letter to caucus members. “The average salesclerk makes below the poverty line, and a majority of Wal-Mart workers cannot afford the company’s health insurance plan. . . . Wal-Mart has forced its more than 600 suppliers to shift operations overseas to exploit workers there at even lower wages while destroying good American jobs.”