Wal-Mart called the cops on Santa this week in North Lauderdale, Florida. According to CNS news, two “protesters” were arrested at the Wal-Mart store in North Lauderdale, Florida. The “protesters” charge, in fact, that the two people arrested were racially profiled and singled out for arrest. The Broward County Sheriff’s office said that the arrests came after a shoving match with Wal-Mart’s store managers. Two African-American women were arrested for simple battery, which is a misdemeanor charge. One of the women was also charged with obstruction of justice. The women were part of a group sponsored by Wake Up Wal-Mart’s campaign, “All I Want for Christmas is Health Care for My Mommy.” During the event, activists handed out gift boxes to children – but the boxes were empty, and that “reportedly made some of the kids cry,” CNS said. Wal-Mart called police to remove the group, and as the old saying goes, you don’t have a riot until the riot squad arrives. Wake Up Wal-Mart responded that Wal-Mart employees caused “an unnecessary incident.” “We wonder why Wal-Mart would single out two peaceful African-Americans (only 2 of the 15 people at the event were detained) and hope Wal-Mart will apologize for this unnecessary incident and not be so fearful of the truth,” said Paul Blank, the campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com. CNS reported that a Unitarian minister said she and her fellow protesters were leaving Wal-Mart, “when two African Americans among our group were targeted by Wal-Mart personnel.” The Rev. Dr. Lucy Hitchcock Seck, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, said the two women “did nothing — nothing wrong at all. Wal-Mart must explain why they targeted two African Americans out of a group of fifteen of us — it is morally outrageous. I can only hope Wal-Mart will acknowledge its profound mistake and explain why two citizens were apparently racially profiled by Wal-Mart,” Seck said in a press release. Wal-Mart headquarters released a press statement that said, “Unfortunately, this union leader campaign stunt went too far.” Wal-Mart says that Wake Up Wal-Mart passed out “gifts” to children…The children became excited and started saying things like, ‘Let me have the big one.’ But when the children opened the boxes, they found that the boxes were empty. Needless to say, the children were upset and some began crying.” Wal-Mart says the group “began pushing and shoving Wal-Mart associates.” Wal-Mart concludes by charging that “the union leadership will stop at nothing — even upsetting children with fake Christmas gifts and resorting to physical confrontation with our associates… We ask for the union leadership to publicly apologize to our associates, these children, their parents and the customers who were in our store and pledge that any future demonstrations will be peaceful and non-violent.” The retailer’s press release ends with this comment: “The American people are becoming increasingly incensed by the nature of this campaign and are still wondering why the union leadership is obsessed with attacking a company that creates jobs and provides affordable health insurance to working families.”
The real “campaign stunt” here involves a promise by Wal-Mart that even Santa can’t deliver: decent health care insurance. The giant retailer has been touting its new health care plans for 2006. The reason Wake Up Wal-Mart was handing out empty packages, is because Wal-Mart is offering 1.2 million empty health care packages to its employees. According to Wake Up Wal-Mart, the retailer “falsely claims its plans will increase the number of employees who can afford health insurance. In fact, Wal-Mart’s so-called “new” Value Plan is simply a repackaging of the poor health care plans Wal-Mart already offers, which already leave over half of its employees without company provided health care. Wal-Mart’s new health care plan is another empty promise wrapped in a publicity stunt that will do nothing to increase health care coverage for over 600,000 Wal-Mart employees who go without company provided health care. Wal-Mart fails to address the key reasons more than half of its employees aren’t covered under their health care plan – ridiculously high deductible costs and overly strict eligibility requirements. Wal-Mart latest publicity stunt will do nothing to help their employees and is more reflective of a morally bankrupt company trying to deceive the American public than live up to its responsibilities as America’s largest corporation. Last year, Wal-Mart had two major health care plan options: 1) the Standard plan and 2) the Network plan. Each of those plans has 4 options within them: 1) a $350 deductible; 2) a $500 deductible; 3) a $750 deductible; and, 4) a $1,000 deductible. This year, Wal-Mart is introducing two additional options: 1) a so-called Value plan and 2) Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). Since the HSA’s are only available to employees who have already been enrolled in a Wal-Mart health care plan for one year, the HSA’s are not designed to, nor will the HSA’s, increase health care coverage for anyone. Therefore, the only plan that has the potential to increase the abysmal fact that Wal-Mart only provides health insurance coverage to 48% of its employees is the Value plan. The Value plan, however, comes with a $1,000 deductible. In addition, the Value plan has additional deductibles for in-hospital care, prescription drugs and surgical care. All told, the Value plan’s deductibles plus premiums could be as much as 25% of an employee’s take-home pay for individual coverage and up to 40% for family coverage.” So Santa is leaving nothing under the tree this year for Wal-Mart workers. That’s what the kids at Wal-Mart should be crying about.