CostCo. vs. Wal-Mart, Round 2

I wrote about a month ago about how much better CostCo. treats its employees than Wal-Mart. It turns out that it’s even better than I thought.

Kerry, 60, a four-term senator, pledges to induce more employers to insure workers with a $257 billion proposal calling for the government to pay most so-called catastrophic healthcare costs — only for companies that provide comprehensive coverage. He’d raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to join unions.

Those policies may benefit Costco and hurt Wal-Mart.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco offers comprehensive health insurance to most of its 78,000 US employees, making it eligible for Kerry’s plan, said Kerry’s top domestic policy adviser, Sarah Bianchi, 31. That may cut 10 percent, or $35 million, off its annual healthcare premiums.

Wal-Mart’s health plan for its 1.3 million US workers is probably not broad enough to qualify for the savings that Kerry’s proposal would bring, since it doesn’t cover enough workers, said Jason Furman, 33, the Democrat’s chief economic policy adviser. Fewer than half of Wal-Mart’s employees are enrolled in the company health plan, according to figures supplied by the retailer.

Costco wouldn’t have to raise salaries with Kerry’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $7 an hour, from $5.15 now. It already pays hot-dog vendors as much as $16 an hour, and the lowest wage it pays is $10 an hour. That’s higher than the $9.96 average wage paid at discount stores bearing the Wal-Mart name.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart supports the Bush administration’s expansion of free-trade agreements and its bid to curtail the number of workers eligible for overtime pay, according to its lobby disclosure reports.

Wal-Mart has benefited from the president’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, since some employees make less than $7 an hour, and from the Republican-controlled Congress’s reluctance to make it easier for workers to unionize. Wal-Mart has no unions; about one-sixth of Costco’s workers are represented by labor groups.

The full article is a really great read.

Kim