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Nov 16 2011

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Big corporation, tiny heart

Walmart is displaying its incredibly shriveled ethical center by whacking the already meager health care benefits that hundreds of thousands of its workers count on.

Jim Hightower By Jim Hightower

How small can a giant corporation get? I don’t mean in size, but in spirit.

Once again, America’s biggest commercial empire — Walmart — is displaying its incredibly shriveled ethical center by whacking the already meager health care benefits that hundreds of thousands of its workers count on.

Just a couple of years ago, this $408 billion-a-year retailing colossus tried to hush critics of its Dickensian labor policies by ballyhooing a bare-bones health care plan for its “associates.” The insurance scheme had such high deductibles, however, that barely half of its employees bought into it.

walmart-employee-health-benefits-cut

Now, even that benefit is being yanked from the 40 percent of Walmart’s employees who are part-time workers. Also, insurance premiums and deductibles are being dramatically jacked up for thousands of full-time workers. For example, one full-timer who’s paid only $12,000 a year will see her premium more than double to about $3,300 a year — a fourth of her income! “I won’t be able to afford the insurance,” she says, “and I really can’t go without insurance, because I have a heart problem.”

Top executives and the board of directors of this enormously profitable corporation also have a heart problem. They are taking advantage of America’s raging unemployment crisis to stiff their workforce, since these low-wage, non-union employees desperately need the jobs and have no power to stand up to the corporation’s greed. A Walmart PR flak says that decisions to whack the workers “were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”

“Care and coverage” for whom? Why, for the top executives, of course. They get full health care coverage from the corporation. How’s that for boosting morale…and for morality? For more information, go to ForRespect.org/healthcare.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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