Maryland’s Wal-Mart Law Struck Down

A Federal Judge has struck down the law passed by the Maryland legislature earlier this year which would have required Wal-Mart to provide health care for all its employees.

BALTIMORE — A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a Maryland law that would have required Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend more on employee health care, arguing the retail giant “faces threatened injury” from the law’s spending requirement.

The state law would have required large employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health care or pay the difference in taxes. Only Wal-Mart would have been affected by the law.

However, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz concluded that the law would have hurt Wal-Mart by requiring it to track and allocate benefits for its Maryland employees in a different way from how it keeps track of employee benefits in other states. Motz wrote that the law “imposes legally cognizable injury upon Wal-Mart.”

More details to come later, I’m sure, but this is definiately a good development and, for me at least, a surprising one. If nothing else, this will definitely have an impact on similar efforts in other states.

Update: The Post story has been expanded to included reaction and an analysis of Judge Motz’s ruling. The reaction of Maryland Senate President Miller is priceless:

Democrats, meanwhile, called the ruling an affront to everyday working people. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the measure’s chief sponsors, said it was nothing less than a matter of “good versus evil.”

“These guys are billionaires,” Miller said. “It’s these guys versus the little people. We’re not going to let a big Arkansas corporation, protected by their contributions to the Republican party, avoid their basic responsibility to the citizens of Maryland.”

Miller noted that the measure is widely popular in the state. A Washington Post poll conducted last month found that 77 percent of registered voters supported the legislature’s efforts to force Wal-Mart to spend more on its employees’ health benefits.

Fortunately, we don’t like in a pure democracy sir, we live in a nation of laws where even 77 percent of the people can’t do whatever they want if its wrong.

As KipEsquire points out, though, this is hardly a victory for libertarians in a legal sense when you look at the basis for the ruling:

But those arguments did not satisfy Motz, who wrote in a 32-page opinion that the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act prevails when determining the types of health and pension plans that companies can offer their workers. And it also allows those companies to create a uniform system of benefits across several states.

The Maryland law, Motz wrote, “violates ERISA’s fundamental purpose of permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration.”

In other words, this was not a ruling that said that government doesn’t have the right to regulate employer-employee relationships when it comes to health care. It merely ruled that the Federal law trumps Maryland attempt at Socialism. A good result for the wrong reason, but probably the best we could’ve hoped for.

Update # 2: The full text of the opinion can be found here. (H/T: Professor Bainbridge)

Related Posts on this law at Below The Beltway:

Targeting WalMart
Hell Freezes Over
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Well That Didn’t Take Long
More Socialism In The Free State

Little Tyrannies
A Pro-WalMart Blowback ?
Wal-Mart And The War Against The Poor II
First They Came For Wal-Mart
Increasing The Burden On The Productive
Another Bad Idea Spreading Like Wildfire

  • Steve Savage

    Ah, the tired rightwing battle cry of “Socialism!”. Socialism made the rightwing man’s food safe, he drove to work on socialist highways, checked out books from the socialist library, and his house is safe and secure because socialist building codes kept the roof from falling in.

    Perhaps GOP fanatics should act more christian since they seem to invoke jesus whenever possible. What would jesus do, would he give you health care?