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• The state of Washington has released a study saying that it cost taxpayers $12 million in 2004 to provide government-subsidized health care to Wal-Mart employees there. Once the cost top federal taxpayers are included, according to the report, the amount almost doubles.

Some lawmakers say that the figures show why it is critical for the state top adopt legislation similar to that passed in Maryland, requiring Wal-Mart and other retailers of considerable size to pay a fine to the state if their healthcare costs are less than a specific percentage of total payroll expenses. Democrats in the House and Senate want to pass a law requiring companies with 5,000 or more employees to put at least nine percent of their payroll costs toward health-care benefits.

The report says that Wal-Mart, which has a total of 16,000 employees in Washington State, also has the most employees on both Medicaid and the state's Basic Health Plan (BHP). According to the report, Safeway – by way of comparison – has about the same number of employees in the state, but fewer than half as many of them are getting subsidized health care.

Wal-Mart responds that the figures are flawed and outdated, and that the company has improved its health care coverage “significantly” since 2004.

Wal-Mart Canada has denied charges that it harassed three workers at a Quebec store that it closed after a pro-union vote by employees. The complaint against Wal-Mart, filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, says that the retailer “exerted pressure, intimidation, threats and constraints'' on the workers to get them to oppose the unionization of the store.
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