It’s been a rough stretch for Wal-Mart recently, getting busted for illegally dumping hazardous materials will do that, and California is saying they’re over the bad practices. It’s no secret that Wal-Mart orchestrates forcing low wages on their employees so that those employees are eligible for federal aid and California is stepping up to the plate to do something about it.
There is currently legislation being pushed through the California legislature that would fine Wal-Mart up to $6,000 for every employee that it abandons to its state medicaid program, Medi-cal. The legislation is getting its push as a response to a perceived loophole that could be available to employers through the expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
The fear that employers would essentially play the system and force responsibility for their employee’s health care onto the taxpayer is real but business groups and lobbyists are pushing back claiming that the legislation is a job killer. Pushing the same old trope, Bill Dombroski, chief executive of the California Retailers Association said to the LA Times, “It’s one of the worst job-killer bills I’ve seen in my 20 years in Sacramento, and that says a lot.”
Trying to conflate the issues of paying employees a livable wage and providing for their health, he continued, “The unions are fixated on Wal-Mart, but that’s not the issue here. It’s a monster project to implement the Affordable Care Act, and having this thrown on top is not helpful.”
Physicians support the legislation; however, as they already face difficulty in getting reimbursed for treatment of the poor. As such, the bill seeks to fine employers that fail to provide for their employees’ health care or pay a sufficient wage at a rate commensurate with that pay.
The Affordable Care Act imposes a penalty on employers that do not offer health insurance to employees that work 30 hours or more, on average, weekly. In response, deviant employers are cutting hours and thus also reducing the income of their employees. Unfortunately, as the Act does not impose a penalty on employers doing so, the loophole is left to the states to close.
This new law in California has unscrupulous employers worried, and rightly so. If the legislation makes its way into the books and more states follow suit, this cutthroat means of pushing down employees wages’ days may be numbered.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.