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Protests To Target Low Pay At Goodwill

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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.

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Comments (25 Responses)

  1. Sharron Henry says:

    This is disheartening to hear especially when there mission to to put people to work. What gives them the right to take advantage of people. I will no longer support an organization with such ethics.

  2. Chris Medvescek says:

    There are two sides to every story. Here in Arizona, there is a law forbidding organizations from paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage. Consequently, my daughter with physical and cognitive disabilities LOST HER JOB in a “Goodwill-like” program because she wasn’t able to do piece work fast enough to make minimum wage. I understand the rationale behind the law, but the end result was unemployment for a person with a disability.

  3. Marlene Mankin says:

    My son has Down syndrome and works in group supported employment. He is on SSA and SSI. If his assets go over a certain amount, he would not be eligible for these benefits which include medicare/medicaid. The employment program funded by the county allows for this so he doesn’t lose these needed benefits. He is not able to live on his own or even begin to manage his own money! I would think that the people at Goodwill would pay people who are disabled and NOT on these programs a living wage. If they don’t then they are in the wrong, but people protesting this may not have all the facts, as this situation may be what is playing in to the equation. How does Disability Scoop find out the facts?

  4. Julie says:

    I live in the greater Tampa Bay area of Florida. Largo actually. The closest two closest Goodwill stores to me are in Saint Petersburg Florida. One is on Central Ave and the other on Gandy Blvd. I would like to participate in this Saturday’s protest. How can I find out if there will be one at either location?

  5. Tina says:

    Need to check out Herkimer industries who do the same. I have a paycheck for my son for
    only one dollar. The most he was ever paid was 20 dollars and thats for 2 weeks

  6. Dennis says:

    Increasingly the various Goodwill chapters have been competing directly with for-profit business. A quick look through listings on Amazon, eBay, etc. will find a large number of local Goodwill chapters competing against assorted small businesses that operate on a for-profit basis, and many times are operated by persons with a disability. It would not be a problem except the Goodwill chapters are typically the lowest or near lowest price on an item. I have seen a items where several Goodwill chapters list the same item, such as a DVD, in the same condition, and totally destroy the price of an item, on eBay, Amazon, etc., by under cutting each other. The end result is the Goodwill chapters did not benefit, but they also harmed the for-profit sellers.

    Most, if not all, of the items Goodwill sells are donated. Goodwill chapters have increasingly leveraged their “cheap” labor to compete directly on both the national and local level with for-profit business that are required to pay minimum wage or better. That needs to stop. Folks working for Goodwill should be paid not less than minimum wage, period. The front-line counselors working for Goodwill chapters are often paid well below the average for that position. Where does the money go? The often very high salaries of the Goodwill executives and administrators at the national and local chapter level are often paid very considerable salaries.

    Goodwill cries the blues about not being able to pay their employees well, yet they receive millions upon millions of dollars to operate programs from the Federal governments, state governments, and even local governments. Obviously the people that should benefit the most are being used.

  7. Roberta Gallant says:

    Good for disability advocates throughout the United States of America, I am glad they plan
    to demonstrate outside their local Goodwill thrift shop locations. The disability advocates
    should boycott Goodwill for paying its employees less money. Citizens with developmental
    disabilities ought to receive the same amount of money as others without disabilities do so.
    Do you agree with me?

  8. Dave says:

    “Disability Advocates” needs to be in quotes in this article. These are not advocates….these are people looking to ruin a system that provides for quality employment opporutnities for individiuals with significant disabilities. The boycott on Goodwill and complaint about the Fair Standards Labor Act are both rediculous and laden with radical rhetoric. Support your local Goodwill and other similar providers and celebrate the extraordinary things they do everyday. Do to otherwise would contribute to our nation’s already high unemployment rate and force these folks to sit at home and stare at their televisions. Exploitation? Absolutely not…..Extraordinary!!

  9. kerry wehmeyer says:

    i think these low-wage pay should be up to $10 in hour because our people with a disabillty must have the right to live a self-dependant life with any limits

  10. Paul Harvey says:

    Why not protest that the unemployment rate of 60% which hasn’t changed in 10 years. So sad that their prioritities are misguided.

  11. Rachel says:

    Before leaning toward any side of an issue, you should educate yourselves on all the facts, which includes doing more than just reading this article or any other for that matter. The fact is, people with significant disabilities cannot and do not perform at a minimum wage standard. Period. If they were able to do so, these organizations (we’re not just talking about Goodwill) would be able to make more profit (i.e. produce more, do more complicated functions which bring more money, and hire less support staff) and therefore be able to pay their clients more. Tell me, if you owned a business and an employee was consistently performing at a 7% production rate and needed near constant supervision and frequent redirection to stay on task, would you keep that person employed? The alternative for these folks is sitting at home in front of the television like a previous commenter stated. The significance of their disabilities would require a 1:1 job coach in integrated employment, which would cost the state about $30 an hour. I could go on forever here, but I need to go help some folks with disabilities earn some money today and send them home with smiles on their faces because they had a purpose for getting out of bed this morning. I’m glad some of you folks have the time to protest this weekend. Maybe next week you should also make the time to tour a supported employment agency, so you can expose yourselves to both sides of the issue.

  12. Kim says:

    In response to a few of the comments: Marlene: What is wrong with earning more money and decreased benefits. Isn’t what we want for our children/family members to be able to support themselve and not rely on public funding if they don’t have to? As for losing Medicaid, your son can retain his Medicaid. You nee dto consult a SSA Work Incentives Coordinator. Rachel: Why is the only option for people with significant disabilties piece meal work or sitting at home? Learn about customized and self-employment for people with disabilities. David Hammis, Cary Griffin, and Paul Wehman all have excellent published info on employment for people with disabilities. Also, take a look at something like Project Search and see how people with significant disabilities are working. Finally, even if someone does not work, there is a whole world out there to look forward to each morning. Caregivers/companions/mentors of those with significant disabilities can help by researching things to do and places to go in the community, nurturing connections and networks, and helping the person with a disability feel included and part of his/her community. I have a 24 year old son with significant disabilities who happens to work at Goodwill for $9.25/hr. stocking books 2 to 3 hours a week. The rest of the week he volunteers shredding in some offices, takes walks with his personal assistant, goes to the YMCA, does therapeutic horseback riding and grooms the horse as much as he’s able, etc. The possibilities are endless and people need to think out of the box. But people with disabilities deserve no less than those without disabilities including the respect that comes with job that pays no less than what people without disabilities receive.

  13. Lisa says:

    The NFB is protesting against Section 14(c) of the FLSA permits a sub-minimum wage for individuals who want to work, but who can’t keep pace with other workers because of a severe disability or other condition. Less than one-quarter of those with disabilities work under the Section 14(c) certificate. Any organization wishing to pay a sub-minimum wage must apply for and receive a certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    The certificate is a valuable employment tool for organizations to invest in the support and services necessary to hire and improve the lives of people with severe disabilities.

  14. Thomas C. Wood says:

    As an Autistic Self-Advocate, I should be out protesting @ the Goodwill in Concord, NH Saturday, but I am tied-up with a commitment to shoot video for Derry Community Television where I volunteer that day.
    Darn!
    Anyway, I agree with my fellow NH disabled self-advocate, Roberta Gallant with what she said here.

  15. Julie says:

    In response to Rachel — I have a brother in law with Down Syndrome. He does not work, never has; we have always enjoyed his company at the house. He loves to clean, cook, walk the dog, watch movies, paint and is overall 90% of the time very pleasant. But if he ever were to work which I am certain he is fully capable of doing I would expect him to be paid at least minimum wage. To my knowledge that is why we have a minimum wage in this country. I am still baffled as to how these companies are getting away with not paying minimum wage. I would love to know what loop hole they are using; I mean abusing! Its like peeing on someone and telling them its rain because they don’t know any better; its taking advantage of the little guy and it makes me sick!

  16. Cory Hoedebecke says:

    You must have all the facts before you pass judgement. Not only do I work for Goodwill in a program that assists adults with disabilities to find and keep employment, I am brother and co-guardian to an adult sibling that receives Supported Employment Services. Funding attached to my program stipulates all individuals can not be paid below minimum wage. However, there is a legitimate reason to pay subminimum wages in certain circumstances. Before anyone receives a subminimum wage a time study is performed to determine the level of productivity on an individual basis. People are not paid less than minimum simply because they have a disability. Having that option allows individuals with limitations due to the disability to still gain employment. If a person performs at 75% of a non-disabled worker then the wage would reflect that. You are sorely mistaken if you think businesses are giving jobs to anyone, regardless of their situation, who can not perform the duties to the expected level of production. As a guardian and brother, I understand fully that due to my loved one’s disability he can not perform certain jobs in comparison to a non-disabled person. It is foolish for us to demand that some person or company pay him minimum wage, if he is unable to perform to the expected standard. I would rather my brother be paid a fair wage based on his performance than be denied employment because he can not meet the expected standard. For his 40 years on this Earth I have been a defender and advocate for my brother whom I love very much. I would never work for a company that exploits individuals with disabilities, in fact I would be holding a sign next to these folks if these allegations were true. The truth is Goodwill does not exploit people with disabilities.

  17. Dave Ambrose says:

    I would take note of some of the posts here to get all the information before targeting Goodwill stores. Keep in mind that Goodwill is a collection of independently operated areas, much like franchises that we are all familiar with. As for my response, I was a manager for several years with Goodwill in California. I guarantee you I was not making “a very high salary” during my time there. I will say, that in my department of 20-25 individuals, all were paid over the minimum wage scale coming in. In addition, I hired those with Down’s Syndrome, mental disabilities, criminal backgrounds and the homeless. I had workers that wanted to have full time schedules but the SS wouldn’t let them. Goodwill, at least in my situation, offered people a chance and many others a second and third chance. Unfortunately, like other organizations there appears to be some suspect policies. Hopefully they will work to make it right. Just do your due diligence before hitting the sidewalk in front of the store or donation site.

  18. Terry says:

    Cory Hoedebecke explains the law and logic of Section 14(c) of the FLSA perfectly. To add to Cory’s comments, these organizations also pay for a job coach to supervise these sub-minimum wage employees, often provide transportation to/from the employment site, and are not able to put these individuals to work in any other role other than that for which the time study has been conducted. In other words, if the person is employed to place plastic clips in bags, they can’t be asked to sweep the floor. It’s not allowed.

    The NFB should be ashamed of themselves for making these false, unsupported accusations.

  19. Peter Lynch says:

    Excellent way to discourage Goodwill or anyone else from hiring our folks. The minimum wage law makes it hard enough for small businesses or any business to hire.

  20. Whitney A. says:

    I do not believe it is misguided. If people who have degrees cannot get jobs that pay for non-disabled worker why should Goodwill should be exempt. If a person who is non-disabled should work at the wages and try to live off it. Then I doubt they would ask disabled person to do the same. The last time there was workplace abuse was when child labor, indentured servitude (which was lowing paying jobs), and Slavery. Each one justified and saying it work and that the person should be grateful. I would love to see non-disabled person going through these jobs and have a disabled person say it work and be grateful. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

  21. Maria Guerrero says:

    This is unacceptable ,this situation has to stop
    And stop NOW! the future of those workers, is in jepery
    If we let this to continue, it would have a virus effect where
    Others will adopt this wey of thinking, they think less
    Of this amazing lady’s and gentlemen , they think less of
    Your son in the future, they think less of your next grandson
    They deserve respect, admiration , support and love . They need
    To be value for the great people , the great community that they are
    NOT LESS!!!! Think abaut it, what is next?? I would fight for
    Those that can’t do it for them selfs, is my pleasure to support them
    And I would go to any possible measure to make sure this ends NOW
    It is unbelievable that this companies use their employes like less then
    A person made to the same image of GOD

  22. Corrie Wynns says:

    I am disabled by autoimmune disease, and I was trying to go to work at Goodwill. I think they declined to hire me because intellectually, I could see through their exploitation of the disabled. I continue to look for work to try to get off disability, and Goodwill is the employer of last resort in my book, not only because of thier treatment of workers, but the kind of job I would likely get, in the sorting room, would actually be dangerous for me. I have a college degree and computer skills, so I could easily fit in an administative/clerical position. I wonder how many people like me put their health and lives and risk just to have a job?

  23. Eric D says:

    I work for Goodwill in Michigan with a disability and this news propaganda is just not true. I would have been sitting home, collecting SSI with no value if it wasn’t for them putting me to work. I started at min wage and within one year found a job making $14 per hour. I stall have my connection to Goodwill and they have helped people despite what this ad says. The CEO at our Goodwill has Autism and yes more than likely gets paid well, but is always there to chat with even me when I need to find guidance and spends many hours within the community. It just hurts that people make comments not knowing everything. There are good and bad Goodwill’s no different then banks or politicians that make tons of money per year. But this ad does not target just Goodwill, it also targets all non-profits like Salvation Army who also has executives many hundreds of thousands per year…Get the facts people….they do good even despite what this article says….shame news has to come to this..

  24. MK says:

    Hey everyone. I started a petition on We the People on the White House website to bring more awareness to this horrible law, and to reform or rescind the law. Sign it if you want to see a change in this!!!!

  25. Bryan Doyle says:

    I know for a fact that some companies such as Stop& Shop where I live in New Haven County CT have been paying people with intellectual disabilities a subminimum wage for A VERY LONG TIME! AT LEAST 20 YEARS!

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