Baptist Leaders Challenge Wal-Mart
Over 130 Baptist pastors and leaders have signed a letter calling on Wal-Mart to become a "Golden Rule" company.
Dear Mr. Scott,A similar letter was written by the Baptist Center for Ethics last year and signed by 13 moderate Baptist leaders.
We write you as moral theologians with grave concerns about Wal-Mart's corporate practices-practices that conflict with our commitment to pro-family values.
The Christian prophetic witness teaches that justice is the highest family value for any society-protection for the fatherless, security for the single mother, honesty in the marketplace, fairness for the weakest one in society, respect for the elderly.
The Hebrew prophet Micah said that God required justice (Micah 6:8). The prophet Amos said that God wanted justice to flood the land (Amos 5:24). The prophet Isaiah said that God wanted his people to seek justice (Isaiah 1:17). Jesus told community leaders that they were neglecting justice (Luke 11:42). The biblical witness also teaches responsibility-parents are responsible for children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and employers are responsible for fair wages for their employees (1 Timothy 5:18). Jesus said, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" (Luke 12:48). We believe that Wal-Mart has been given and entrusted with much wealth, power and influence.
We believe that much is required of and demanded from Wal-Mart in terms of its responsibility to working families. That responsibility necessitates that Wal-Mart treat well its employees with such things as:
- fair-living wages, not poverty-level wages;
- generous health care benefits, not eliminating low-deductible health care plans;
- decent places to work that treat women with dignity and equality;
- respectful schedules for children in school; and good benefits for sound retirements.
A company with the wealth of Wal-Mart has the responsibility to advance the common good for a better society, not seek only personal gain. Wal-Mart's leaders need to recognize their moral obligations to be good stewards of what the corporation has been given and entrusted, not simply through acts of charity but with justice for working-family employees who have built but not necessarily benefited from Wal-Mart's vast earnings. When we celebrate Christmas, we mark the birth of the Messiah who gave the moral imperative of the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31; Matthew 7:12), a rule that encourages Christian consumers to consider where they shop and that guides corporate practices.
We challenge you this Christmas to make Wal-Mart a Golden Rule company, one that is mindful in reflecting the best of Christian values and one that seeks a higher standard for its employees and their families.
Earlier this week on Chris Matthew's Hardball, former Senator John Edwards spoke out against Wal-Mart. He noted that almost half of Wal-Mart's employees children get their health care from medicaid.
According to WalmartFacts.com, Wal-Mart's health insurance only covers 43% of their employees. Wal-Mart has approximately 1.39 US employees. On average for 2005, large companies (200 or more workers) cover approximately 66% of their employees. If Wal-Mart was to reach the average coverage rate, they should be covering an additional 318,000 employees.
Wal-Mart's health care egilibility is extremely restrictive. Any employe below 34 hours a week must wait 1 year before they can enroll. Full-time hourly employees must wait 6 months before being able to enroll in Walmart's health insurance plan while Managers have no waiting period. Nationally, the average wait time for new employees to become eligible is 1.7 months. For the retail industry it is 3 months.
All of Wal-Mart's health plans are too costly for its workers to use. Since the average full-time Wal-Mart empoyee earned $17,114 in 2005, he or she would have to spend between 7 and 25 percent of his or her income just to cover the premiums and medical deductibles, if electing for single coverage. The average full-time employee electing for family coverage would have to spend between 22 and 40 percent of his or her income. These costs do not include other health-related expenses such as medical co-pays, prescription coverage, emergency room deductibles, and ambulance deductibles.
Wal-Mart covers less of the health care costs compared to its competitors. In 2003, Wal-Mart covered only 52% of total health care premium costs compared to K-Mart which covered 66%, Target which covered 68%, and Sears which covered 80%.
Wal-Mart's spending on health care for its employees falls well below industry and national employer averages. In 2002, Wal-Mart spent an average of $3,500 per employee. By comparison, the average spending per employee in the wholesale/retailing sector was $4,800. For U.S. employers in general, the average was $5,600 per employee.
Don't forget, one out of six Wal-Mart employees has no health care coverage at all.
These are staggering statistics. For more info check out Wake Up Walmart. While you're there, check out the latest ad featuring Baptist Pastor Joe Phelps of Louisville, Kentucky.
Support the Baptist Center for Ethics and their challenge to Wal-Mart to become a "Golden Rule" company. If you would like to add your signature to the letter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.