Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Disquieting Incident

This week a new Super Wal-Mart opened in my town. Since I have long appreciated shopping at the now-closed regular Wal-Mart in the next town, I showed up on opening day to see what the new store could offer.

It's a good thing I have my own electric scooter to get around, because the store is immense! Almost every kind of errand you could think of, except maybe a quiet place to rest and pray, is offered there. The sheer stimulation of all those products and services is nearly overwhelming. Still, I did find a few things I was looking for.

After purchasing the items, I was on my way out, when I passed by a hair salon. How convenient. I did need a haircut, and the price was very reasonable, so I stopped and got one. Turns out the salon - and all the little shops along the outer wall - are separate companies that sublet space from Wal-Mart. My hairdresser said she likes her company and that the benefits are good, which I was glad to hear.

But there was an older woman also getting her hair done and I couldn't help overhearing her conversation with her hairdresser. She just had surgery the day before - don't know what kind - was employed by this same Super Wal-Mart we were in, and was going back to work the next day! I thought that was odd, and silently hoped it wasn't because of some Wal-Mart policy about sick days. You never know.

I have to say that I do not feel comfortable bashing Wal-Mart corporation for its inadequate health care policies. I don't think every company should be on its own to figure this one out. Everyone should help to pay for it, companies included, but this is too big to handle except in a big way - like Medicare.

But I do think if Wal-Mart really cared about this issue and its employees’ well-being, it could join with the millions of Americans who are longing for a universal health care plan, and put it's considerable muscle behind every legislative effort toward that end.

I still believe government is capable of designing a good health care program - when its heart and mind are in gear. Other countries have figured this out, so we know it's not rocket science. It just boils down to political will.

Gail Murray 10/21/2006