by Max Brantley
Atlantic Monthly (the click-through just gives you a chance to subscribe to the magazine to read the whole article, unfortunately) has an interestng article on Andrew Stern, the union leader who's used his big Service Employees International Union to bedevil Wal-Mart. It's not, as the article notes, about unionizing Wal-Mart, though it is about protecting working people of all sorts. Excerpt:
Stern seemed to take a Bart Simpson– like delight at the spectacle of a flummoxed symbol of authority whose current chaos he’d helped devise. Spending around $5 million annually, Wal-Mart Watch has pushed anti-Wal-Mart laws in dozens of states, leaked damaging internal documents, and helped make the company known as much for its exploitation of government health plans as for its business acumen. Over the last year, and very much against its will, Wal-Mart has been moved to the center of the national debate over health care, and Stern has drawn one step closer to what he’s really after.
In Stern’s thinking, if the world’s largest company could be coaxed or bullied into publicly favoring a national health-care policy, here’s how things might play out: a rush of other companies already beset by health-care costs and accustomed to mimicking Wal-Mart would fall in line, putting business on the same side as labor. Governors burdened with soaring Medicaid costs might also join in. The pressure on the federal government would be overwhelming. Stern, in other words, is seeking to turn the Wal-Mart effect to his own ends, harnessing it to transform health-care policy just as it routinely transforms business policy. It’s an audacious plan…