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New York City Health Care Law to Affect Food Retailers

NEW YORK -- It looks like health care costs are going up for Big Apple retailers. Overriding a mayoral veto, the New York City Council yesterday passed the Health Care Security Act, Int. 468-A, which requires the city's grocers and other food retailers to provide health care for their workers. The legislation also applies to big-box stores that sell groceries. As a result, New York becomes the first municipality in the United States to impose such a law.

"Our city's public health care system is struggling with the growing crisis of employers not offering coverage, forcing employees into the public system," said Christine C. Quinn, city council member and chair of the Health Committee, who introduced the act, at a press conference yesterday. Requiring supermarkets to spend the industry's prevailing amount on health care is a pro-business response that protects responsible employers as well as the taxpayers of our city."

The legislation was enthusiastically endorsed by the 22,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, New York state's biggest grocery workers' union. Said UFCW Local 1500 president Bruce W. Bruce both in a statement, "With the passage of this legislation, we pronounce loud and clear that responsible employers and hard working grocery workers will not be allowed to be pulled down to the level of companies happy to reap huge profits at the expense of New York City taxpayers."

According to a report in yesterday's Newsday, legislators from Suffolk County on Long Island are considering a similar bill aimed at requiring large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, and BJ's Wholesale Club to provide health care for employees. The bill, which was introduced last week by minority leader William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) and is backed by majority leader Peter O'Leary (R-Moriches), would require retailers to set aside a minimum of $3 per hour for each hour an employee works to cover health insurance costs. According to the bill, that money may not be taken from wages, salaries, or other compensation.

Since it has bipartisan support, the Suffolk bill is expected to pass the Suffolk legislature, according to the newspaper.

The New York City and Suffolk acts follow in the steps of legislation introduced by such states as Maryland and Illinois.
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