Magazine article National NOW Times

Maryland Legislators Stand Up to Wal-Mart

Magazine article National NOW Times

Maryland Legislators Stand Up to Wal-Mart

Article excerpt

The Maryland general assembly made history on Jan. 12 by passing a bill that requires private companies like retail behemoth Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on healthcare for employees.

Maryland lawmakers overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich after progressive activists fought back against Wal-Mart's huge advertising and lobbying efforts against the bill.

"NOW applauds Maryland lawmakers for standing up to big businesses like WalMart," said NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives. "These legislators put the health and welfare of the people of Maryland above corporate profits, and for that they should be commended."

Wal-Mart is currently the only employer in the state affected by the legislation, although the law's language will apply to any private company that employs at least 10,000 state residents. Wal-Mart employs nearly 17,000 people in Maryland.

Drafts of similar "fair share" laws are under way in 30 other states, including a proposal in Rhode Island that would require companies with 1,000 or more employees to spend 8 percent of payroll on health benefits. A bill in Washington state requires companies with 5,000 or more employees to spend 9 percent of payroll on employee health care.

In all three states, the legislation would require companies that decline to spend the money on employee health coverage to instead pay the remainder of the threshold into a state fund for the uninsured.

"As the first state to enact such legislation, Maryland has set a bold example for the rest of the country," Vives said. …

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