NY County: Wal-Mart Must Pay
Share of Worker Health Care
October 7, 2005
The latest grassroots battle to require low-paying big-box retail
stores to provide employees health care coverage is being waged
in a populous Long Island county.
In a lopsided September 27 vote, the Republican-dominated Suffolk
County Legislature came down 17-1 in favor of the Fair Share for
Health Care Act, after a campaign by labor and community groups. The
law, which must be signed by the county executive to become effective,
would force large stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart to provide
health care to their workers. Sponsored by legislature member
William Lindsay, former business manager of Hauppauge, NY, IBEW
Local 25, the law would benefit 12,000 low-wage retail workers
across Suffolk County.
Local 1381 Business Manager Don Daly (forefront) anxiously awaits
the vote along with other union members.
“I think the legislators saw that county tax money was indirectly
funding medical insurance for the retail employees,” said
Hicksville, New York, Local 1381 Business Manager Don Daley. “The
burden was being passed on to the citizens.”
Daley spoke in favor of the legislation before a packed house
at the county meeting before the vote. He was joined by
more than 50 union members, including members of IBEW Local 25
and Local 1049, Long Island, as well as other unions from the Long
Island Federation of Labor and religious and community leaders
from Jobs with Justice. Similar proposed legislation has
met with resistance in other areas, so such a law has not yet been
implemented. Bills were passed by the state of Maryland
and New York City, but both were vetoed. The Suffolk measure
won by such a wide margin, a veto could be easily overridden.
Community and labor groups continue to press County Executive
Steve Levy, who is a Democrat, to sign the bill. Nonunion
retailers are fighting it just as vigorously, and are expected
to sue if he does.
week, leaders from the L.I. Fed. went into County Executive Levy's
office to urge him to sign the bill. Bruce Both
from UFCW Local 1500, Nick LaMorte from CSEA, Ralph Ranghelli
from IBEW Local 1049 and John Durso, L.I. Fed. President had
a productive meeting but still urge all of us to call County
Executive Levy at
(631) 853-4666 to sign the bill.
“There is no question in my mind that this bill will pass
and will be challenged in the courts because this has overwhelming
implications,” said Local 1049 Business Manager Ralph Ranghelli. “But
I’m proud we got this far.”
Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the United States, with 1.2
million workers, but only half of those can afford the employer’s
health care insurance. A 2004 study by the University of
California found Wal-Mart costs state taxpayers $86 billion a year
in public assistance to its workers. It has been reported
that Wal-Mart’s personnel offices encourage employees to
apply for charitable and public assistance.
“Wal-Mart has profited off the public sector to the tune
of billions of dollars,” said Paul Tonna, a Republican Suffolk
Bill sponsor Legislator Bill Lindsay
(D-Holbrook) addresses the public
before the legislature called
The Suffolk bill would mandate retail companies meeting size and
revenue standards to contribute at least $3 for each hour an employee
works toward their health coverage. Employers would be prohibited
from passing that charge on to workers.
“Big box stores are undermining health care delivery system,” Ranghelli
said. “Our hospitals are inundated with the uninsured.”
WE DID IT !
History was Made.
A letter from IVP Don Siegel
On Tuesday, September 27th, over 50 union members from 15 different unions
packed the house at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead to urge the
Legislature to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act. Organized labor
was joined by a dozen religious and community leaders from Jobs With Justice
to help pass the bill which would mandate that large retail companies like
Wal-Mart to provide health care for their employees. The press and media
were there; News 12, TV 55, Long Island Business News, the New York Times and
Newsday. Various radio stations like B-103, WLIU & WALK announced that
this historic legislation would benefit 12,000 low wage retail workers across
By a vote of 17-1, Suffolk County is the first county in the United States
to pass this bill. For months the entire Long Island Labor Movement has been
lobbying the legislature and meeting with the Food Industry to make this bill
work. All that is needed now is for the County Executive to sign
the bill. So contact County Executive Steve Levy at (631) 853-4666 and ask
him to help us improve the lives of 12,000 workers in Suffolk County and sign
the Fair Share for Health Care Act.