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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Whose Health is Wal-Mart Looking Out For?

Always Ask Questions. Always. After giving some, but not full credit to "Always Low Prices" Wal-Mart for providing increased health care coverage to its workers, I read:

Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs, by Steven Greenhouse and Michael Barbaro, NY Times: An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart. ... the memorandum ... also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive. To discourage unhealthy job applicants, [the memo] suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)." ... The memo ... said that three top Wal-Mart officials ... had "received the recommendations enthusiastically."  ... The memo noted, "The least healthy, least productive associates are more satisfied with their benefits than other segments and are interested in longer careers with Wal-Mart."  ... "It will be far easier to attract and retain a healthier work force than it will be to change behavior in an existing one," the memo said. "These moves would also dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart." ...

So it appears this is about image, not worker health. Memo to self. Next time Wal-Mart does something that appears benevolent to its workers on the surface, look beneath the surface and ask why.

    Posted by on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Health Care | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (7)

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