McDonald’s put up a budgeting website that has been much reviled for advising workers to take a second job and to stop eating. It also encourages the use of pay cards, which are debit cards that aren’t attached to a bank account.
Employees’ already sparse paychecks are bled dry by fees for everything from cash withdrawals to bank transfers to inactivity fees. Racked-up card fees deduct so much from employee wages that when the cost of fees are not considered as wages, some workers get paid less than minimum wage.
Although McDonald’s Corp. says that franchisees are responsible for payroll policies, over 500,000 McDonald’s fast food workers in America have been enrolled in the McDonald’s budgeting program, hosted on Visa Corporation’s Practical Money Matters website.
McDonald’s budgeting advice offers a clear endorsement of the payroll distribution:
A pay card is an alternative to paper checks that allows you to receive and access your pay on payday electronically – without hassles or check cashing fees. Using a pay card opens up many new possibilities and offers benefits that you just can't get from a paper check.One of the world’s biggest banks, JP Morgan Chase issues pay cards for McDonald’s. Other big banks -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup – issue them as well for restaurants and retailers like Walgreen’s, Taco Bell and (you guessed it) Walmart. Those banks received taxpayer bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis. They borrow money from the Federal Reserve at interest rates far lower than fast food workers pay – recently as low as 0.75 percent. So pardon us for being offended that mammoth, profitable, taxpayer-subsidized banks are plundering the working poor.
One former McDonald’s employee from northeastern Pennsylvania started a petition asking that McDonalds to require franchises to offer alternative methods of payment. The petition has gathered almost 300,000 signatures in less than a month.
Other sections of their budgeting website emphasize that “every day and every dollar make a difference” and warn against payday loans and check-cashing fees. One video explains that:
Spending the extra twenty dollars means that a couple of hours of your pay is going just to pay for these fees…. That’s a lot of money! And nothing to show for it.Well, not entirely.