Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Wal-Mart, AIDS and Health Care

Interesting blog posting from Respectful of Otters about a woman with AIDS who works for Wal-Mart. What's the problem? No insurance, so your tax dollars take care of the problem.
She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can't afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn't cover her HIV care because it's a pre-existing condition. It isn't even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive - she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won't pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won't pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.

So you, the federal taxpayer, will be paying for her medical care. Today you also gave her $40 worth of food vouchers, because after she pays her rent (which eats more than half her wages, and she lives in a slum) there's not a lot left over to buy food. I'm sure you're glad to do it, right? You don't want her to die.

And you don't want Walmart's $8 billion profits and 21.6% return on shareholder's equity to drop, the way it probably would if the public weren't picking up the cost of keeping Wal-Mart associates and their children alive. You wouldn't want any members of the Walton family to drop off the list of the richest people in the world. (Imagine if only four of them were in the top ten.)
And looking at the bigger picture, we see the "Wal-Martization" of society, with Wal-Mart not only abusing its own employees, but also forcing other entire industries to adopt Wal-Mart's policies in order to survive.

The bottom line, as summed up by the NY Times during the Southern California retail strike is that
The 70,000 grocery workers on strike in Southern California are the front line in a battle to prevent middle-class service jobs from turning into poverty-level ones. The supermarkets say they are forced to lower their labor costs to compete with Wal-Mart, a nonunion, low-wage employer aggressively moving into the grocery business. Everyone should be concerned about this fight. It is, at bottom, about the ability of retail workers to earn wages that keep their families out of poverty.
The only answer is to organize Wal-Mart.

Update: And check out the comments attached to the posting for an interesting debate, some of it sparked by my SHOCKING suggestion that organizing Wal-Mart workers might be the solution to this woman's problem, as well as (directly and indirectly) millions of other American workers.