A national disability advocacy group is urging a boycott of Goodwill arguing that the collector of unwanted clothes and furniture should not be paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.
The National Federation of the Blind is coming out against Goodwill after obtaining documents showing that the venerable nonprofit known for reselling household goods pays some workers with disabilities as little as $1.44 per hour.
“We are calling upon all Americans to refuse to do business with Goodwill Industries, to refuse to make donations to the subminimum wage exploiter and to refuse to shop in its retail stores until it exercises true leadership and sound moral judgment by fairly compensating its workers with disabilities,” said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.
Goodwill’s compensation practices are legal. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers have been able to obtain special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor since the 1930s to pay those with disabilities less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
However, the National Federation of the Blind says the allowance is based on an outdated view of the ability of individuals with disabilities to work and they say that Goodwill should do better.
“That Goodwill Industries exploits many of its workers in this way is ironic, because its president and chief executive officer is blind. Goodwill cannot credibly argue that workers with disabilities are incapable of doing productive work while paying its blind CEO over half-a-million dollars a year,” Maurer said.
The National Federation of the Blind and dozens of other disability advocacy groups support legislation introduced in Congress last year that would end subminimum wage altogether. However, no further action has been taken on the bill.
For their part, Goodwill representatives said in a statement that 64 of their 165 local affiliates pay employees with significant disabilities below minimum wage but such workers receive an average of $7.47 per hour.
“Goodwill supports changes in the (law) so long as the right of people with disabilities to maintain employment of their choice is preserved,” the statement said.
What’s more, the group added that paying less than minimum wage “enables Goodwill and thousands of other employers to provide opportunities for people with severe disabilities who otherwise might not be part of the workforce.”