Editorial voices from the U.S., elsewhere

July 12, 2013

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:

The Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times

Low-wage workers are often one broken-down car, one injury or one unexpected expense away from disaster. But some large employers and big banks are making the financial lives of these workers even more precarious by charging them fees to access their pay. Sold as a convenience for employees and a money-saver for employers, payroll cards are unfairly eating into workers’ wages. With the incentives of major banks and employers aligned, workers need federal and state regulators to step in and end the gouging.

Payroll cards are like debit cards and can be used to receive cash at ATM machines or to make purchases. Typically, lower-wage hourly workers are the ones who receive their pay this way, with Taco Bell and Walmart among the dozens of large employers that offer them, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Employers like them because they can save thousands of dollars a year over the cost of producing paper paychecks.

The cards offer convenience, and for some employees without a bank account, they can be cheaper to use than check-cashing services. But the cards are also another way to extract money from vulnerable workers. Fees are imposed for virtually every transaction, including making a cash withdrawal, making a purchase or checking a balance. Monthly fees can add up to $40 or $50, taking so much out of a paycheck that an employee may fall below the minimum wage. Employees say there is almost no way to avoid paying to access their money.

Employers who want to utilize this system for payroll should bear the cost for employees. The situation now, where workers have to pay to get paid, is unacceptable.

Hutchinson (Kan.) News

Businesses celebrated July 4th two days early this year, not with fireworks but instead a health-care reprieve from the Obama administration.

A decision by the president postpones until 2015 a provision of the Affordable Care Act that large-and medium-sized businesses offer workers health insurance coverage or pay penalties. Some business groups have told the administration they still are uncertain about implementation.

Indeed, businesses and individuals have a few things to sort out.

For individuals, the delay announced last week does not affect the Jan. 1 starting date that requires most Americans to have health care coverage or face tax penalties.

For businesses, some health industry experts say it would be cheaper for most companies to drop health care benefits and pay the penalties. That is just one of many aspects of the new law that left businesses scratching their collective head and pleading for a delay in implementing this provision. And reason enough for the administration to agree to the delay.

The president showed his flexibility this week. Now it’s time for the business sector to meet its new deadline.

The Star, Toronto

After the Bangladesh garment factory collapse in April that left more than 1,100 workers dead, their broken bodies mingled with brand-name clothing tags, the country’s politicians and sweatshop owners no doubt hoped the resulting furor over worker rights and safety would soon blow over. It hasn’t.

Bangladesh’s garment workers are notoriously poorly paid, making as little as $38 a month to produce cheap clothing for consumers in far richer countries. They are commonly abused, largely non-unionized and routinely exposed to fire and other workplace hazards.

Now, in a stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, U.S. President Barack Obama is moving to suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits until its officials deliver on promises to improve worker rights and workplace safety. Under pressure from American trade unions, Obama served notice late last week that he intends to revoke the break on some tariffs that Bangladesh enjoys, and make it harder for certain products to get into the U.S. market.

Profits shouldn’t trump lives. And the world is no longer looking the other way.



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