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Maryland Stands up to Wal-Mart on Employee Health Care

In the past week, the Maryland state legislature has passed two laws in support of the state’s low-income workers: first, a law that effectively requires Wal-Mart to contribute more money to employee health insurance; and second, a $1 increase to the minimum wage. The first measure was vetoed by Governor Robert Ehrlich (R), but the Democratic majority overrode the veto on Thursday. This law requires companies with more than 10,000 employees in the state to either spend 8 percent of payroll on health insurance or contribute the difference to a state fund for the uninsured. Wal-Mart is the only known company of such size not to already meet the 8 percent level, reports the Washington Post. Thirty other states are considering similar measures, and the Maryland victory may encourage such regulation of Wal-Mart and other large corporations.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has campaigned against Wal-Mart’s exploitative business practices and sex discrimination in the past, and Vice President Olga Vives said in a statement, “NOW applauds Maryland lawmakers for standing up to big businesses like Wal-MartÉ The time has come to tell Wal-Mart, and any company tempted to follow its business model, that you cannot stay at the top if you’re standing on the backs of your workers.”

Maryland also increased the state minimum wage by $1, again over a gubernatorial veto, making minimum wage in Maryland $6.15 per hour. Tom Hucker, executive director of Progressive Maryland, told the Baltimore Sun, “It’s a big win for working families É It’s a long-overdue raise for 173,000 workers and their families.” This bill earned praise from US Representative and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who called on Congress to enact a two-year minimum wage increase to $7.25, and US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who said in a statement, “Maryland is one of many states and communities across the country to recognize that no one who works for a living should have to live in poverty,” the Sun reports.

Sources:

Baltimore Sun 1/18/06; NOW press release 1/13/06; Washington Post 1/13/06