Wal-Mart Watch: The Times’ Steven Greenhouse reports on the growing movement to beat back Wal-Mart race-to-the-bottom assault on workers’ economic security:
Union leaders, academics and community activists plan to hold an unusual meeting in Washington today to begin mapping out a strategy to check Wal-Mart’s growing power and to press the company to improve its wages and benefits…Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, convened the meeting, which will bring together union leaders, professors who have studied Wal-Mart and leaders of Acorn and other community groups…Many union officials have complained that the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union with jurisdiction to unionize Wal-Mart, has done too little to try to organize the retailer and has been highly unsuccessful in those efforts.
…One idea that will be under consideration at the meeting, several participants said, is to issue a set of principles, like the Sullivan principles for South Africa, that Wal-Mart would be urged to follow regarding wages and treatment of its workers. John Wilhelm, president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, has recommended that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. focus on just two things after the November elections: politics and finding ways to press Wal-Mart to improve wages and benefits.
As Nathan points out, the best line of the article is this one citing Wal-Mart’s spokesperson:
She said that while critics say 40 percent of Wal-Mart’s workers do not have company health insurance, 90 percent of its employees have health benefits through some plan – perhaps a spouse’s or through state Medicaid.
In other words, Wal-Mart is so committed to free enterprise that its workers depend for healthcare on…the government and other businesses, which are both forced to effectively subsidize Wal-Mart’s wage- and benefit-slashing approach to business.