Amazon launches payday advances for its most precarious warehouse workers

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Amazon launched a payday advance program, called Anytime Pay, to give its most insecure warehouse workers “access to up to 50% of the money.” [they’ve] won instantly. “

While it’s no secret that many Amazon warehouse workers live paycheck to paycheck, most Americans do, the implication of this new offering, which has been touted as a advantage, is dark. The program codifies what many Amazon workers have said about their dangerous, low-paying jobs: Warehouse workers need an option like this because they don’t earn enough to make it through to the day. payroll.

“Anytime Pay is an exciting new program that gives you quick access to the money you’ve earned, instead of waiting for the next paycheck,” read the flyer recently distributed to warehouse workers.

The Payday Advance Program is specifically available to Amazon warehouse workers who work in so-called “pick your own team” jobs. Amazon touted these positions for their flexible hours and career development opportunities. But in online Glassdoor reviews, workers in these positions complain that they have to fight to stay on schedule. In other words, workers who can’t get enough hours or who are underemployed are likely scrambling to make ends meet.

In 2017, Walmart introduced a similar payday advance program for its employees after coming under scrutiny for decades for underpaying its retail workers and creating unpredictable schedules. At the time, Walmart said the new initiative would help its workers avoid payday loans and other debt programs.

Amazon’s new payday advance program also doesn’t seem as predatory as some payday loan companies, which derive their income from charging high interest rates to people who need quick access to cash. .

But these are a few caveats about Amazon’s new payday advance option. Warehouse workers who opt for this program, by signing up for a charge card with software company Wisely, will be charged fees at off-network ATMs to withdraw money, and may be subject to charges. other fines. In other words, workers will likely receive a little less of their salary using this card.

In 2018, following harsh reprimands from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that Amazon was paying pittance, the company agreed to increase its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour for all its U.S. employees. At the time, reports revealed that one in three Amazon warehouse workers in Arizona relied on food stamps, and the company’s median salary was $ 28,000 per year.

Amazon’s concession to pay workers more has been a victory for workers, as the company sets the standard for working conditions in the e-commerce industry. But many warehouse workers, especially those working in cities where the cost of living has skyrocketed, are still barely coping.

In March, Amazon increased its minimum wage from $ 15 an hour to $ 17 an hour to compensate workers for the health and safety risks of working during the pandemic. But the company ended that benefit in May, and warehouse workers have expressed frustration that the company is cutting them off as large outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to surface in Amazon warehouses.

A spokesperson for Wisely did not provide details of its contract with Amazon or a full list of fees associated with the card, but said workers could access their full pay.

“As generally required by payment card law, the Wisely Payment Card offers cardholders the ability to access the full payment amount without incurring any charges,” said Wisely’s spokesperson. As usual with payment card solutions, the Wisely card generates revenue from transaction fees, for example, merchant interchange fees and some ATM fees. It is important to note that the Disclosure of payment card charges is required by law and all card charges wisely charged by ADP are disclosed to our cardholders when they subscribe to the card. ”

Do you work for Amazon and have a tip to share with us? Please contact reporter Lauren Gurley by email [email protected] or on signal 201-897-2109.

An Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard that Amazon does not pay Wisely to use its services and will not charge employees for using the Anytime Pay program, inactivity, or transferring Anytime Pay to their Wisely card. .

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