The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Arizona Taxpayers Subsidize Wal-Mart Employee Healthcare

by Brendan Coyne

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 company’s statewide workforce is receiving taxpayer-funded assistance. The information was provided to Capitol Media Services, which reported it Saturday.

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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 company’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 company’s full-time workers. According to the Morning News, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington and the company’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 giant’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 state’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.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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