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Wal-Mart under Pressure from Health Care Officials

Wal-Mart is under pressure as it is asked to improve its labor and health care policies. Democrat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who has had deep// ties with the company has her share of the political heat. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years. Hillary Clinton said that her time on the board of Wal-Mart was a memorable one.

But in recent months, as the company has become a target for Democratic activists, she has largely steered clear of any mention of Wal-Mart. Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect asked about her difficult in taking about the issue.

In 1986, Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, asked Clinton to be the company's first female board member. , Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and largest private employer, with over $312 billion in sales last year and 1.3 million employees in the U.S. alone.

But recently, the company has drawn intense scrutiny for its labor practices from its wages to the lack of affordable health coverage for employees, to its stiff resistance to unionization. The Clintons also benefited financially from Wal-Mart. Bob Ortega said that Clinton used her position to urge the company to improve its gender and racial diversity.

These were things the company was not addressing and wouldn't have, had she not pushed them to do so. Liza Featherstone said that she did nothing to improve the status of women or make it a very different place

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced that the company would enroll more workers in a new, low-premium health plan. The company will also trim the waiting period for part-time employees to become eligible for coverage. Jonathan Tasini, a longtime labor organizer said that the country was not facing the same health care challenges 10 years ago.

Even Clinton's decision to return Wal-Mart's campaign contribution illustrated the complicated role still Wal-Mart plays in her political life.


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