Much of the debate over health care costs at Wal-Mart have focused on younger workers and their families. But what about those workers who actually retire from Wal-Mart — what do they get? The sad fact is: nothing. In a recent column for “associates” called “Straight Talk: Answers To Tough Benefit Questions,” Wal-Mart tells its workers that giving their retirees any health benefits would be too expensive. In other words, they are not worth the investment. Here’s Wal-Mart’s direct answer to its retired workers: “Q: Could Wal-Mart make health insurance available to Associates who retire after 20 years of service?” A: Many companies, along with Wal-Mart, have discovered that offering health coverage to retirees would increase costs for everyone. Mandated accounting rules also make retiree health coverage extremely expensive. Many companies who used to offer it have been forced to stop due to substantial expenses. To keep the Associates’ Medical Plan as affordable as possible for all Associates, additional coverage groups cannot be added. Associates who retire can enroll in COBRA coverage for up to 18 months. Wal-Mart is working to develop a Retiree Resource Center to assist Associates in planning for their future retirement needs.” So the 1.2 million people who work at Wal-Mart have nothing to look forward to in terms of retiree health insurance, except to extend their company health plan for a year and a half — at their own expense. One other “Tough Question” that may upset its workers was the following: “Q: Since Wal-Mart makes billions of dollars in profits, why can’t they contribute more towards my Medical Plan? A: Last year (ending 1/31/05), Wal-Mart spent approximately $4.2 billion on Associate benefits. The Medical Plan is already the largest category for benefits expenses, and benefits costs are projected to continue rising. Wal-Mart historically has contributed approximately two-thirds of the cost of the Associates’ Medical Plan premiums. To continue to have a thriving, growing company, it is necessary to balance Associates’ needs with expense control. Wal-Mart reinvests profits back into the business so we can continue to grow. This growth helps to support Wal- Mart’s stability and success.” This is perhaps the clearest statement of “profits before people” that you will ever get out of Wal-Mart. A leaked memo from Wal-Mart two weeks ago had a chart that showed a worker at the company with 7 year’s seniority costs Wal-Mart 58% more in wages and benefits than a worker with only 1 year experience. Both are equally productive. So employees who stay at Wal-Mart cost more than workers who churn out of the system after one year. Don’t count on a career at Wal-Mart. There’s no retirement benefits in it anyway.
For more on Wal-Mart’s health benefits, search Newsflash by “health care.”