A large union is promoting state bills that could require large, profitable companies to spend a minimum percentage of their payroll on employee health coverage.

The Service Employees International Union, Washington, has set up Americans for Health Care, a unit that will be promoting the Fair Share Health Care Act in more than 2 dozen states.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich, R-Md., already has vetoed a fair share bill in Maryland. The Americans for Health Care campaign will test its strength in Maryland next week, by asking the state legislature to overturn Ehrlich’s veto, according to Jonathan Parker, the campaign’s national director.

The Maryland bill would require profitable corporations with more than 10,000 employees to devote at least 8% of their payroll to covering their employees’ health care costs.

A survey has shown that 67% of voters throughout the United States “strongly support” the fair share concept, Parker says.

Opponents of the fair share concept say it would simply impose more costs on employers without doing much to expand workers’ access to health coverage.

The American Benefits Council, Washington, a group that represents large employers, has issued a statement blasting the SEIU campaign.

“‘Fair share’ measures may have publicity appeal for those who want to vilify big business, but they don’t do anything to address the root problem, which is high costs and the other ailments of the health system,” American Benefits Council President James Klein says in the statement.

“Instead of financial penalties for large employers already voluntarily offering coverage, we must provide inducements for all employers to be able to offer coverage to their workers,” Klein says. “Nothing in so-called ‘fair share’ measures promotes or encourages additional employers of all sizes to find the means to offer these benefits.”