Maryland v. Wal-Mart, Round Two

A couple weeks ago, I reported on a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that hoped to prevent Wal-Mart from moving into its borders by regulating the size of big-box retail outlets. Now, the state of Maryland has joined the campaign against the retail giant. Last week, the state legislature passed a bill that would require Wal-Mart to boost its spending on health care for company employees. State legislators want any company with over 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll (6 percent for non-profits) on health benefits for workers, or to put money in the state’s health program for the poor. The bill does not officially single out Wal-Mart, as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Giant Food supermarket chain, and defense contractor Northop Grumman all have enough employees to fall under the bill’s requirements, but there is no doubt that Wal-Mart was in the mind of most legislators when the bill was passed. Lawmakers say that a year ago, they were told Wal-Mart spent only 5 percent on employee health benefits. Company spokesmen say the number today is 7–8 percent.

Republicans largely voted against the measure, which is likely to become law despite a pending veto from Governor Bob Ehrlich.

UPDATE: Today’s write-up says that only Wal-Mart will be affected by the bill, which passed the legislature last night, along with at $1 hike in the state’s minimum wage.

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