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Democratic Ohio lawmaker takes aim at corporate 'welfare queens'
Hagan wants the state to list top corporations with employees on public assistance

Andy Chow
In The Region:

As stores prepare for the holiday season, Ohio lawmakers are calling on businesses to make, what they believe to be, more responsible corporate decisions. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, that includes considering better wages for employees.

CHOW: Corporations as welfare queens

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CHOW: Corporations as welfare queens (Abbreviated)

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Democratic Representative Bob Hagan of Youngstown is introducing a bill that he says will bring about higher corporate responsibility and address what he believes to be a major problem in the state.

“Some of the largest and most profitable corporations in Ohio are also among the top biggest users of taxpayer-funded public assistance, that is to say they are the state’s largest welfare queens.”

Hagan uses Wal-Mart as an example. He says 10,000 employees of the world’s largest retailer rely on food stamps in Ohio.

If Costco can do it ...
Under the bill, the state director of Jobs and Family Services would create a report showing which businesses have the largest employee-use of state public assistance.

“Having this information available will allow the Legislature and relevant agencies to make complete judgments of the merits of offering taxpayer-funded subsidies to certain companies while also shining light on which corporate citizens are neglecting the well-being of their employees.”

The companies mentioned by Hagan are all businesses that tout their low prices. And Hagan does not believe prices would go up if any of the companies changed their employee-related practices. Hagan uses the large warehouse chain Costco as an example of a company that has low prices, makes a profit, and still pays its employees a good wage. He says that’s something the owners of Wal-Mart haven’t accomplished.

“You’re talking about a multi-national corporation of a family that has done absolutely nothing except make an incredible amount of money with total disregard—as we have pointed out—to their employees.”

Focus on jobs, not embarrassing employers
Keith Lake, vice president of government affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, responds “It’s really a thinly veiled attack on Ohio’s largest employers for reasons that really don’t have anything to do with health care.”

He says, mathematically speaking, it shouldn’t come as a shock to lawmakers that the state’s largest employers also have the most employees needing public assistance.

Lake says if House Democrats really want to reduce the number of people needing public assistance then they should take a different approach.

“They’d be wiser to focus on working towards passing legislation that would improve our business climate — not figuring out ways to embarrass the companies that are already here employing thousands upon thousands of Ohioans.”

Hagan’s bill follows another proposal that would require retailers to pay more overtime for employees who work on Thanksgiving and part of Black Friday.


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