Aug. 5, 2005 – Joining a growing number of states that are subsidizing Wal-Mart workers at an above-average rate, Arizona released figures last Friday showing that nearly ten percent of the companyâ€™s statewide workforce is receiving taxpayer-funded assistance. The information was provided to Capitol Media Services, which reported it Saturday.
According to the report, at least 2,700 Wal-Mart employees in the state earn salaries low enough to make them eligible to collect medical and other assistance. The number is nearly ten percent of the companyâ€™s total employees in that state and about 1.9 percent of the total state working population receiving taxpayer-funded assistance.
Arizona is just the latest of many states to reveal that they are providing benefits to the companyâ€™s full-time workers. According to the Morning News, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington and the companyâ€™s home state of Arkansas are all involved in similar arrangements with Wal-Mart.
"It is downright un-American for Wal-Mart to force taxpayers to foot their health care bill," said Paul Blank of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in a statement Tuesday. The union has been engaged in an ongoing struggle to organize the retail giantâ€™s workers and runs a Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign.
Wal-Mart officials have acknowledged that many of their employees qualify for government safety net assistance, but they dispute the newly-released information from Arizona. Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, told Capitol Media Services that the company actually removes people from welfare rolls by providing steady employment.
Saturday, the Arizona Republic reported that nearly half of the stateâ€™s benefit recipients are employed, most by retail and food service companies. Over 500 state employees receive state assistance through the $6 billion-a-year program as well, the paper noted.