Welcome to Traitor-Mart.
In the judgment of many retailers and their trade organization, the National Retail Federation, big-box giant Wal-Mart is a traitor to the cause of free enterprise, the market system, and all that the American business community holds dear.
Why? Because Wal-Mart, the country’s largest private employer, has sold out to what the National Legal and Policy Center describes as the “dangerous expansion of government power sought by the Obama Administration” by supporting the administration’s plans for an expensive health care mandate that would compel all large employers to provide health insurance to their workers.
Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs and government relations, recently delivered a letter from Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel endorsing the health care scheme. Dach, a long-time Democratic operative, previously worked for Bill Clinton. Wal-Mart hired Dach in 2006 as part of the company’s apparent campaign to sooth its liberal critics.
Wal-Mart’s embrace of the health care mandate is in keeping with its campaign to curry favor with the Left. The once union-averse Wal-Mart has even partnered with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the country’s largest labor unions, to back universal (i.e. socialized) health care, which would include the mandated employer insurance for employees. It was no coincidence that Dach’s letter to the White House was co-signed by SEIU head Andrew Stern. Still another signatory was John Podesta, the president of the George Soros-funded activist group Center for American Progress, who led the Obama transition team.
Wal-Mart’s alliance with the Left would appear to be self-interested. By holding hands with the SEIU to support Obama-care, the retailer hopes to ward off the union’s beloved “card-check” scheme, which would do away with the secret ballot in elections for or against unionization. Currently, workers can vote for or against unionization in a private ballot election that’s federally supervised. But under card check, if more than 50 percent of the workers sign a card, the government would have to certify the union. Forcing workers to sign a card in public brings the likelihood of intimidation and coercion by the union.
Another fairly obvious reason for Wal-Mart’s joining the health care bandwagon is that the employer mandate would be costly to its competitors. The expense of offering health insurance would give Wal-Mart, the largest retailer, a leg up on the competition, which would be saddled with the cost of the employer mandates.
It’s no wonder then that the National Retail Federation, the biggest trade group in the industry, has urged its members to publicly challenge Wal-Mart’s support for the employer mandate. In a letter to its members, Tracy Mullin, chief executive of the NRF, urged its members to “[c]ome out swinging. To truly lead on the health care debate, it is imperative that businesses, associations and politicians take a stand where it counts and not shy away from deal-breakers like employer mandates.” She also said, “Seeing the company in lockstep with the unions on his issue was troubling to say the least.”
Yet Wal-Mart, which is not a member of National Retail Federation, remains adamant. Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said: “We know we have taken a pro-business position, and that’s the right thing to do for our company.”
What’s right for Wal-Mart, however, is not necessarily right for the business community, or for the free market. Wal-Mart may believe that it can appease the Left and buy peace from the unions. But as the National Legal and Policy Center points out, the company may be exposing itself to a more relentless assault by the Left, and jeopardizing not only its own, but also the nation’s economic future. For the discount retailer and the country, kowtowing to the Left will carry a steep price.