Disability advocates in more than two dozen states plan to demonstrate outside Goodwill locations this weekend in a bid to call out the nonprofit for paying employees with disabilities less than minimum wage.
The protests this Saturday are planned at more than 80 Goodwill Industries thrift stores across the country. Most are expected to occur between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time.
The coordinated action is the latest effort from the National Federation of the Blind, which launched a boycott of Goodwill Industries earlier this summer after obtaining documents indicating that the organization known for reselling household goods has paid workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents per hour.
The protests, which are also being supported by the disability rights group ADAPT and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, are intended to be informational in nature, organizers said.
“Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known charitable organizations in the United States, but most members of the general public are unaware that Goodwill exploits people with disabilities,” said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “Given its lucrative retail operations and the fact that it can lavish half-a-million dollars on the salary of its president and chief executive officer, Goodwill is certainly in a position to stop exploiting its workers with disabilities.”
Maurer’s group is asking members of the public to stop donating to Goodwill or shopping at the organization’s thrift stores until the nonprofit alters its compensation model for employees with disabilities.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are able to obtain special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to legally pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
Goodwill officials argue that by paying so-called subminimum wage they are able to employ people with severe disabilities who otherwise likely wouldn’t be working.
“We believe that the special minimum wage certificate is a tool — not the only tool — but a tool to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Brad Turner-Little, a Goodwill spokesman.
Goodwill employs 30,000 people with disabilities across the country, about 7,000 of whom are paid less than the minimum for their work, according to the organization.
Turner-Little said that to date Goodwill has not been impacted by the National Federation of the Blind boycott, but the nonprofit is preparing local affiliates for the possibility of protests.