President’s Message – Reject Rolling Back Worker Paycheck Protections

The increased use of debit cards over the last decade as method of payroll was sold as a modern, convenient way for employees to access their pay and an alternative for low wage workers to avoid predatory check cashing companies. Inevitably, however, the unchecked use of debit cards for payroll has led to many workers getting unfairly charged to access their pay.

Debit cards can be an option for employees but it’s imperative that we do not replace one bad industry with another by allowing ATM vendors, financial institutions or any other company to nickel and dime workers out of their hard-earned pay. Unfortunately, recent revelations by the Attorney General and the Department of Labor found that is exactly what was happening. That is why the Department of Labor put regulations in place to protect workers from abusive debit card practices.

The regulations included a prohibition against unreasonable fees, assurances that employers could not impose the use of debit cards on their workers, adequate notification of the terms of use, as well as worker privacy and security protections. Also, included in the regulations were guarantees for geographic access to ATMs or banks so workers could access their check without having to travel or pay a fee.

These strong protections are particularly important for low wage workers and immigrant workers. Unfortunately, the lucrative debit card industry fought these protections and an appointed, administrative board overturned them saying DOL lacked the authority to establish the regulations. Now they are trying to replace these protections with weaker legislation.

The regulatory matter is on appeal and now in the courts. As we move toward the end of session, we urge our elected officials to resist the promises of “fair play” if only we roll back these protections and we need to reject the threats that they will no longer offer these cards. Until the courts decide we should not make any changes to weaken these vital regulations.

We urge opposition to S5208A/A6771A.

Mario Cilento, President

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