By Paul Rubin
We wrote a sad story recently about an octogenarian named Herman Teague, who'd had the misfortune of going to work as a greeter at a Wal-Mart near the 101 and Bell Road.
Teague fainted at work and sustained a bad gash to the back of his head. But his employer, the mighty Wal-Mart, refused to cough up any worker's compensation benefits, which led to protracted hearings before the Industrial Commission of Arizona (which Teague won) and then before the Arizona Court of Appeals (which he lost).
The beloved ex-fighter pilot died last February at age 88, and those closest to him are sure that the stress of his unexpected battle with Wal-Mart and the weight of unpaid medical bills (about $200,000 at one point) contributed greatly to his demise.
During our research for the piece, we learned that Teague's case--while graphic and tragic--was par for the course, in Arizona and nationally.
So, it was with a sense of irony (among other senses) that we opened an e-mail the other day from the good folks at E.B. Lane Public Relations, a Phoenix operation, with the headline: "Wal-Mart Launches State Giving Program."
The blurb informed us that the monolithic firm has started a "State Giving Program" to award grants to "Arizona non-profit organizations with unmet needs that are not currently addressed by existing programs," whatever that means.
Wal-Mart, the press release continues, has "a history of supporting the communities they serve."
In 2007, according to the release, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and the Wal-Mart Foundation "gave $296 million to communities across the U.S."
Okay, okay. But we couldn't help but ask ourselves, what about supporting the employees that serve it? Naaah...
By the way, the late Herm Teague's stepdaughter, Linda Kilfoy, informs us that, just last week, she received a letter from a debt-collection agency seeking payment of an outstanding medical bill. She says all she could do was shake her head in disbelief.