Corporate Welfare

The Hidden Costs of Shitty Jobs

Good Jobs First recently completed a study looking at which corporations are most reliant on taxpayer-funded programs to cover their workers' medical needs. Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart was the chief offender. In eight out of the ten states that Good Jobs First was able to uncover data for, the retailing behemoth had more employees relying on government-subsidized healthcare than any other company.

In Wisconsin, for example, 3,765 people who are Wal-Mart employees or members of their immediate families are enrolled in BadgerCare, the state's health insurance program for low-income families. The annual cost to taxpayers, according to an analysis done by the Capital Times newspaper in Madison last year, is $4.75 million, with the state picking up $1.8 million of that amount.

Such numbers are currently unavailable in Minnesota. But a proposed state law that received its first hearing at the Capitol yesterday would change that. Under the measure, any person applying for a state-subsidized healthcare program would be required to identify their place of employment (if any). The Department of Human Services would then be mandated to annually release a report listing all businesses with more than 25 employees on the public healthcare rolls. In addition, the state agency would be required to break out how much each company's employees are costing taxpayers.

The legislation, sponsored by DFL Senator Becky Lourey, passed out of the Health and Family Security Committee with just one dissenting vote. A companion bill has been introduced in the house, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

While there was little opposition to the disclosure provision at yesterday's hearing, supporters expect that to change as it advances. "I'll tell you who's going to end up looking bad on this one besides Wal-Mart," says Bernie Hesse, an organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, who testified in favor of the legislation. "Target. And Target has big sway up there."

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