In his 1976 run for the Presidency, Ronald Reagan warned us about a “Welfare Queen” that had “eighty names and thirty addresses” and “drives a Cadillac.” “She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names,” and “her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.” But since he pronounced this “Welfare Queen” no reporter has been has been able to locate her. Now, reporters Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks writing in Truthout have discovered her whereabouts. She lives in Bentonville, Arkansas and goes by the name of Walmart. She is the single largest employer and reported higher income in 2011 than any other company in America. But because she pays such low wages to her employees, they require state and federal subsistence payments to make a go of it in America. A typical Walmart worker earns 31% less than someone working for another large retail company and requires 39% more in public assistance. Because of these low wages and lack of benefits, Walmart employees require Federal assistance that amounts to $2.6 billion each year, including $ 1 billion in healthcare costs. Walmart employees get government help in the form of food stamps, housing assistance, healthcare and school-lunch programs for children. What Walmart doesn’t cover for the needs of her employees goes directly into their profit margin as the American taxpayer contributes directly to Walmart’s bottom line.
The Walmart employee costs to the Federal government are about to go up: according to an article in the Huffington Post Walmart is about to get even more Federal help, by further restricting healthcare coverage for employees. Beginning in January, 2013 Walmart will begin denying healthcare coverage to employees working less than 30 hours per week. The scheduling will be determined by managers at each store, though the company has refused to reveal how many workers will lose coverage under the new policy.
Thirty-five years of searching for Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” couldn’t produce a tangible example, but all the time reporters were looking for a person, not a company. When reporters finally figured out that Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” is in fact a large corporation, it makes perfect sense that all the while people had been turning over the wrong rocks! We need to help Walmart employees for a labor union and organize workers to demand wages that don’t force their employees to seek public assistance. Every employee in America needs the right to live a life with dignity.
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