Natalie Gunshannon, a McDonald's worker from Pennsylvania, has just won the right to… draw a paycheck. Work-for-pay is a fairly straightforward system that the Western World has been using for the past six or seven centuries, give or take.
Ms. Gunshannon was an hourly employee at a McDonald's franchise in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Her degree is in massage therapy, but jobs in that field are scarce. A single mother, she took whatever work was available, which brought her to McDonalds, where she worked the line for $7.44 an hour, 30 to 70 hours per week.
After her first pay period, she was given not a paycheck, but a "debit" card loaded with her wages. This card, backed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), could be used anywhere Visa was accepted – including ATMs. It all seemed very convenient.
A "Fine" Service
The problem was the JPMorgan debit card itself. It's a fine card… There are "fines" every time it's used:
- ATM withdrawals: $1.50 each
- Over the counter cash withdrawals: $5.00
- Balance inquiries: $1.00 per inquiry
- Online bill payment: $0.75 per bill
- Lost or stolen card: $15.00 replacement fee
- Inactivity fee (not using the card enough): $10.00 per 30-day period
At $7.44 per hour, these fees could easily send a person like Natalie Gunshannon right under the water. Losing her card would cost her better than two hours' worth of work. She has a checking account, and access to a debit card issued by a federally-backed financial institution.
Why would she want to be paid under this usurious system? She had no choice.
Ms. Gunshannon asked her manager if she could be paid with a check, as is the custom in these parts. Pennsylvania law says a worker can be paid in cash or check upon request.
She was told that checks weren't available, and that there was no way to transmit her wages other than this JPMorgan debit card…