Under the onslaught of negative press, there have been steps in the right direction—theMcDonald's franchise where Gunshannon worked has now said that it will offer all its employees the option of a paper check or direct deposit, in addition to the card. Previously, according to the lawsuit, only managers had that choice. The decision covers some 800 workers at 16 stores. “We didn't hear any complaints. Many employees have been using these cards without complaint for many months. When it became apparent there were some employees who may want the choice, we're going to give them the choice," a company spokesperson told the Associated Press. (Gunshannon isn't dropping her lawsuit, though, saying that the company's actions are “damage control.”)
In New York, the political battle over a bill that would allow the cards is heating up. Michael Kink, executive director of Strong Economy for All, told Working In These Times, "In New York, workers need protection against both unscrupulous employers who rip them off with payroll debit cards and shady lawmakers in Albany who want to blow the doors wide open for even more ripoffs. Right now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is digging into current abuses, and unions and community groups—with great work by the New York State AFL-CIO—are fighting hard to stop bad bills in the Legislature."
As Kink noted, perhaps the biggest impact of the heightened scrutiny has been the announcement by New York Attorney General Schneiderman that he would look into the use of the cards. The attorney general's office sent letters to 20 large employers, including McDonald's, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, asking about their use of the cards. He's investigating whether businesses that use the cards may have broken state labor laws, and whether workers are forced, as Gunshannon said she was, to use the cards as a condition of their employment.
Good on both counts here, folks. There are people working to fight corporate nonsense like this, as few and far between as they are, but they do exist.