A Walmart associate arranges items on a shelf at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, N.Y.
Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

It’s Labor Day, which means it’s the perfect time for the Wall Street Journal to run a story about a way in which employers are scamming workers. The only problem is the Journal is pretending that the trick is a good way to “improve productivity” and “lower attrition.”

Employees at Walmart, according to the report, pay $6 a month to be able to use an app called PayActiv that then can then give them loans. But Walmart is only one of about 500 companies that work with PayActiv, which charges workers $5 per pay period to be able to access loans, online bill payments, and financial counseling.

About 380,000 workers at Walmart use the app often, according to David Hoke, the senior director of associate health and wellbeing at the company, which introduced salary advances in 2017. Walmart covers the monthly app cost 4 times a year and caps the loans so workers can only forward half their pay.

The Journal’s Anne Tergesen wrote: “For those in need of larger sums, some employers offer loan services that typically advance as much as $5,000, with repayments deducted from workers’ paychecks over four months to a couple years.”

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“The aim is to help cash-strapped employees, many with damaged credit, cover unexpected expenses without resorting to high-cost debt,” explained Tergesen, who covers retirement for the Journal. That’s the alleged aim, but there’s clearly more to the picture.

“Employers have woken up to the fact that a majority of workers are having a lot of trouble simply getting by, never mind getting ahead,” said Sophie Raseman, the head of financial solutions at Brightside, a “financial health startup” that was launched last year. Brightside is allegedly designed to help employers help workers make “better financial decisions.”

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It’s all just funny to me because, well, if companies had really woken up to the truth of their employees’ financial troubles, workers wouldn’t have trouble paying bills anymore because they (we) would all have higher wages and great unions.

Robyn McGuffin, a medication technician at Nazareth Home, told the Journal that she uses the app often, including when her fiance was out of work because of a medical emergency. Corporations love to pretend that workers make irresponsible financial decisions, when in reality the odds are completely stacked against them from the start.

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It’s clear that the PayActiv app is just another way that Walmart and other employers try to control their workers’ lives. The main reason these people can’t pay their bills on time is because their employers don’t pay them enough. If you owe money over a period of years, when you couldn’t make ends meet in the first place, it’s pretty hard to find new work. Could that be why the app lowers worker attrition? The best way for companies to make their employees more productive is to treat them better.