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February 09, 2005

Doing Something About Wal-Mart

The Montana state Senate is debating a bill to fight Wal-Mart's low wages. If passed, the law would impose a tax on gross retail receipts of any retailer doing more than $10 million per year in business. No tax would be owed, however, if they certified that all full-time workers were making at least $22,000 per year. (You can listen to this NPR segment on the issue).

A version of the bill was only narrowly defeated in 1993 and with the new Democratic majority in the Montana Senate, hopes for passage this year are stronger. State Senator Ken Toole, chief sponsor of the bill, laid out his argument for taxing the Wal-Marts of the world in this oped:

It’s bad enough that workers in these stores are struggling to make ends meet but that’s only part of the story. You and I pick up the tab when a box store doesn’t pay its workers a living wage. Congressman George Miller recently released a detailed study of the cost of Wal-Mart to communities in California. That study estimated that a Wal-Mart store with 200 employees cost federal taxpayers $420,000 per year or about $2,000 per employee in public services ranging from healthcare to housing. Box stores shift their labor costs onto the rest of us. So, why not ask these big box stores to put money into the community and help out local small business at the same time?

The “big box tax” being proposed in the Legislature will exempt any big box store that pays a living wage. If Wal-Mart and other big box stores don’t want to pay the tax, all they have to do is pay their workers a little more. They can afford it and we should demand it.

This is the new Montana populism in action, increasing the minimum wage and taking on goliaths like Wal-Mart in the name of the little guy.

Posted by Nathan at February 9, 2005 05:06 PM