Wal-Mart Reconsiders Its Future in State; Health Benefit Mandate Could Cancel New Stores
Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Executives for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are debating whether to cancel plans for new outlets in Maryland in response to a new state law requiring the discount retailer to provide a certain level of employee health benefits, a company official said yesterday.
Officials at the Arkansas-based company also are considering challenging the law in federal court, in addition to scrapping plans to build outlets such as a store at Capital Plaza Mall in Landover Hills and a distribution center on the Eastern Shore, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Rhoda M. Washington said.
"That's in the range of possibilities," Miss Washington said.
The Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed the law Thursday over the veto of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. The party-line decision drew national attention and made Maryland the first state to legislate against Wal-Mart's health care policies.
The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, directs companies with more than 10,000 employees in the state to dedicate at least 8 percent of payroll to employee health care or pay an equivalent amount into the state's Medicaid fund.
Wal-Mart, which employs nearly 17,000 Marylanders, has provided about 4 percent of its payroll for health benefits.
The law currently applies only to Wal-Mart because all other large employers in the state, such as Northrop Grumman, already provide the mandated level of health care benefits.
The AFL-CIO is spearheading a campaign for other state legislatures to enact similar laws against Wal-Mart, which employs about 1.3 million workers nationwide.
"More than three-fourths of Wal-Mart associates have health insurance," company spokeswoman Sarah Clark said Thursday. "And every Wal-Mart [worker] in Maryland - both full-time and part-time - can become eligible for health coverage that costs as little as $23 per month."
Yesterday, Miss Clark said the U.S. Chamber of …
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Publication information: Article title: Wal-Mart Reconsiders Its Future in State; Health Benefit Mandate Could Cancel New Stores. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: January 14, 2006. Page number: A09. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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