February 08, 2007


Caption: Here's another odd alliance.

Here's something I could never have made up. On Wednesday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced the formation of a campaign for universal health care.

That's not strange in itself. The weird part is in the alliances. According to the SEIU press release,

The founding members of the new partnership, which was announced at a Washington, DC, news conference, are SEIU and Wal-Mart, the largest health care union and the largest corporation in North America, respectively; AT&T; Intel; Kelly Services, Inc.; Communications Workers of America; the Center for American Progress; the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy; and the Committee for Economic Development.

Did anyone else notice the mention of a certain Arkansas-based company in that list?

SEIU is in fact a very active partner in Wal-Mart Watch, the mission of which states

Our aim is real change -- transparent and lasting -- to benefit Wal-Mart communities. To date, we have made remarkable progress in getting Wal-Mart to respond to a wide array of concerns about its business practices. Wal-Mart has acknowledged the harm it causes by providing poor health benefits that force its employees to seek taxpayer-supported public assistance. It has taken some promising first steps on a long road toward creating a more environment-friendly business. We are hopeful the company is serious when it acknowledges that change is necessary, and we will continue to push Wal-Mart forward.

As our nation's largest employer and most successful company, Wal-Mart is most certainly an American institution. Wal-Mart occupies a unique position in our world by virtue of its size, reach and responsibility for the livelihoods of millions of workers and the needs of billions of consumers. And with such overwhelming influence come certain moral responsibilities.

In 2006 we launched A Handshake with Sam, seven moral principles that reflect sound business practices and responsible corporate behavior in the twenty-first century. Our mission is to persuade Wal-Mart to assume its leadership role as America's largest corporation and enact positive change. If Wal-Mart commits to these principles and assumes the moral responsibility we expect of our biggest and most important American corporation, it will have proven worthy of America's admiration.

The new campaign released a statement of principles, which begins thus:

America’s health care system is broken. The traditional employer-based model of coverage in its current form is endangered without substantial reform to our health care system. It is being crushed by out of control costs, the pressures of the global economy, and the large and growing number of uninsured. Soaring health costs threaten workers’ livelihoods and companies’ competitiveness, and undermine the security that individuals of a prosperous nation should enjoy. We can only solve these problems – and deliver health care that is high quality, affordable, accessible and secure – if business, government, labor, the health care delivery system and the nonprofit sector work together.

If nothing else, this will draw a lot of attention to the issue, if only because of the unexpected alliances. This one falls under the "dog bites man, no news/man bites dog, news."

Another idea that occurs to me is that this shows that even giant corporations respond to public pressure.

This will be one to watch...



mwildfire said...

I don't see why you find this surprising. As you noted, Wal-Mart is under a lot of pressure. SEIU wants universal health care so its members will have health care. The big corporations want it so that they can get off the hook, so taxes will pay for their employees health care. And so they can compete with corporations based in first-world countries, where governments rather than employers pick up the health care tab.

Donutbuzz said...

What if they gave a Wal*Mart and nobody came?

El Cabrero said...

Hey to mwildfire and donutbuzz...Sorry,I've been on the road. All I can say is I wasn't expecting that one.

Re:Wal*Mart, DB, I'd like to hear the K-Mart song again sometime.