State banking bill in jeopardy

From David Lazarus' Jul 16 SF Chronicle column:

Under the amended SB1904, employers would not be subject to penalties under Section 212 if they offer workers the option of receiving payments via direct deposit. The onus would be on workers to either accept or decline the offer.

However, the revised bill also would allow employers to avoid penalties simply if they "discuss avoidance of the transaction fee" with their bank. In theory, a single phone call would suffice.

This approach was supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, which is insisting on a "safe harbor" for employers so they're not left holding the bag for the banks' fees. [Ed. - That's exactly who should be left "holding the bag"!]

But unions (other than the UFW) and consumer advocates say the chat-with-your-bank remedy is nothing but a loophole that subverts the intention of Section 212 by denying workers their right to have paychecks cashed "without discount."

They also say the amended legislation does nothing to address the plight of workers who, for whatever reason, are not creditworthy enough for checking accounts. They'd still be stuck paying the banks' fees even as their employers get off scot-free.

"It's a terrible bill," said Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney for Consumers Union in San Francisco. "The amendments make the bill worse than current law."

The current bill may die in committee, but there still may yet be hope, though far off in the future:

California employers have filed class-action lawsuits against Bank of America and Wells Fargo challenging their right to levy the fees. It's still possible that a solution will come from the courts.