One of the biggest developments on the health care front this week was Wal-Mart's decision to back an employer mandate as a major provision of reform legislation. The move rankled the Chamber of Commerce, which accused the retail giant of using the government to build competitive advantage against its competitors--all despite the fact that Wal-Mart is the Chamber's largest member. But liberals were by and large pretty happy with the development.
At least as far as health reform goes.
But Wal-Mart is a major stakeholder on a number of key issues, and some wonder whether the Arkansas-based behemoth will try to cash in their support for health reform with the White House when the focus in Washington eventually turns to employee free choice.
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Labor sources, well-acquainted with Wal-Mart's anti-EFCA tactics, have suggested or acknowledged this concern to me in the days since the administration announced the deal--and as hard as it is to imagine Wal-Mart fighting that legislation harder than they already do, the sources say both sides may turn up the temperature in the fight over employee rights in the weeks and months ahead.
It's unclear where the basis of this concern lies--whether it comes from internal knowledge of Wal-Mart's negotiations with key health care players in Washington; or from an understanding of the company's incentives; or whether some in the labor movement are using this moment to launch a pre-emptive strike against their main EFCA opponent.
But either way, it's clear that the uneasy alliance between labor and Wal-Mart on the question of health reform does not translate into rapprochement on the issue of unionization. If anything, it makes the fight over that issue bloodier.