Wednesday, July 1, 2015

No You Can't Give Your Low Wage Workers' Salaries To Big Banks

A McDonald's franchise insisted on paying this women
only with a fee-laden debit card. So she sued.  
There's been some good U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the past week, but another ruling, from a lower court in Pennsylvania about a month ago, gave me another reason to be happy.

The court said that a McDonald's franchise owner could not pay the employees there in the form of Chase Bank debit cards.

As we well know, McDonald's employees tend not to be super rich 1 percenters. So they need every penny of their paychecks.

According to Consumerist, the debit card pay violated a Pennsylvania laws that says "wages shall be paid in lawful money of the United States or check."

The legal question was whether a debit card is lawful money. It kinda is, but.....

Anyway, a woman named Natalie Gunshannon worked briefly at one of these debit card McDonald's. Briefly, because she objected to being forced to use the fee-laden debit card. Her employer said she had no choice.

Oh, but she did. She quit and went straight to a lawyer. Gunshannon is sort of a Norma Rae of McDonald's, at least in Pennsylvania.

Here's how Consumerist described it:

"The 2013 complaint alleges that the McDonald's franchisee violate this law by requiring that employees accept the Chase debit card, which charged fees like $1.50 for using an ATM, $5 for over-the-countery cash withdrawals, $1 per balance inquiry and $0.75 for online bill payment."

In other words, if these McDonald's employees actually wanted to get access to their wages, they had to give some of it to Chase Bank, which, as I noted, is probably not about to run out of cash anytime soon.

Consumerist goes on, "At the same time, managers at these McDonald's were being paid through direct deposit, meaning that the were not stuck with any of these fees."

Yep, the lower wage workers had to give some of their money to the poor suffering bank, while the somewhat better paid managers got to keep all of their wages.

The judge said the debit cards violated the law because the cards are neither cash nor check.

The judge in the case also said this new technology makes for evolving case law, and state legislators are grappling with this.

Consumerist notes that Federal Reserve Regulations say that "no financial institutions or other person may require a consumer to establish an account for receipt of electronic fund transfers with a particular institution as a condition of employment or receipt of a government benefit."

In other words, an employee can choose to get a paycheck, cash, direct deposit or debit card arrangement with the bank of his or her choice, but the employer can't choose for the employee.

More than that, though, the McDonald's franchise owners were awfully scummy. Did they get some nice arrangement from Chase Bank for forcing employees to use the debit cards.

Worse than that, this is totally a reverse Robin Hood. The debit cards are classic steal from the poor and give to the rich.  (Hmm, I bet Bernie Sanders wouldn't approve of this!)

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