business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • Wal-Mart reportedly will spend a half-million dollars to defeat California Proposition 72, which would require large employers with 200 or more employees in that state to pay at least 80 percent of worker’s health care coverage costs. The proposition, if passed, in next week’s election, also would eventually require companies with 50 or more employees to either pay for their health insurance or pay into a state-run program that would cover them.

    According to a report from Reuters, Wal-Mart is incensed by a new television commercial that calls for passage of Proposition 72 and says that because Wal-Mart didn’t provide adequate health insurance for many of its employees, taxpayers had to spend more than $32 million to cover them.

    California' Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes the proposition, while it is supported by Calpers, the state’s public employee pension fund.

  • In a “ten questions” interview with Time magazine, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott said:

    • ”Our size really does bring with it some disadvantages. And in some ways being in Arkansas was a disadvantage in that we thought you could ignore the rest of the country. We let other people define who Wal-Mart is. Now we're telling the Wal-Mart story, about the quality of jobs we have and about the 1.5 million Wal-Mart associates who have a lot of pride in the company.”

    • The thing that we see that really tells us the most about the consumer's financial situation is displaced merchandise. [Customers] fill their baskets; then what they do is take that merchandise out as they pick other things up. When the economy gets tougher, we have to go through that store more frequently. We saw that this year particularly as we got later in the summer.

    On why Wal-Mart banned Jon Stewart’s “America: The Book”… “It had nudity in it, and I think that's the concern. That's a sensitive area to walk through. We believe customers have a specific expectation of us. The good thing about the U.S. is that there are plenty of places for people to buy what they want. We end up having to make those calls. It's part of the quirkiness of who we are.

KC's View:
Quirky? Disadvantaged?

Somehow, that doesn’t sound like the Wal-Mart we know.