Feature Writer John Christie – Advocacy Groups Demand Goodwill Pay Its Disabled Workers at Least Minimum Wage
The National Federation of the Blind is boycotting Goodwill Industries for paying their disabled workers less than the minimum wage. Goodwill is currently about to do this under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under a little known provision of the FLSA, certain organizations can pay their disabled workers just $1 an hour. The NFB has been trying to change this provision for years and now they’re going after a large organization to have their voice heard.
“This is simply unfair, discriminatory, and immoral,” said Anil Lewis with the National Federation of the Blind.
The NFB obtained Goodwill’s certificate under the Freedom of Information Act. This certificate authorizes special minimum wage rates for people with disabilities. “The thing that’s so very frustrating for me is that the reason this whole law exists is because people don’t believe that blind people and people with other disabilities have the capacity to participate in the workforce,” said Lewis.
According to the Goodwill documents, a deaf person is making just $1.44 an hour in a Goodwill facility in Hinesville, Georgia. The irony is thick with this issue, due to the fact that the CEO of Goodwill Industries is a blind person. “I don’t know how he reconciles paying other people with disabilities less than minimum wage. To me, that is hypocrisy,” said Lewis.
On one recent Friday, Lewis and a few of his colleagues drove down to Goodwill headquarters in Rockville, Maryland to meet with the CEO, Jim Gibbons, but were told to call and make an appointment.
“We have attempted to have a meeting and unfortunately, I don’t know why, they have chosen not to meet with us. Many people say that maybe they have something to hide. Maybe they’re afraid that our argument is too strong. I don’t know what the reason is. Maybe you (9NEWS now) can get an answer for us,” said Lewis,”
9 News in Maryland couldn’t even get an interview, but the Goodwill headquarters released this lengthy statement:
“Goodwill supports changes in the FLSA so long as the right of people with disabilities to maintain employment of their choice is preserved. Across the U.S., 79% of people with disabilities are not working today. The Special Minimum Wage Certificate is an important resource to employ individuals with significant disabilities. The Certificate enables Goodwill and thousands of other employers to provide opportunities for people with severe disabilities who otherwise might not be part of the workforce.
Goodwill’s network of 165 local, autonomous, community-based organizations in the United States and Canada employ a total of 105,000 team members, 30,000 of whom have a disability. Our data shows that 64 Goodwill organizations report employing people with significant disabilities under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate. These 64 Goodwill’s employ approximately 7,300 employees with significant disabilities under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, with the average hourly wage of $7.47.”
Protests took place last Saturday in two dozen states in regard to Goodwill not paying the minimum wage.
It’s incredibly important that Goodwill is being exposed for not paying their disabled workers minimum wage. Hopefully, through this exposure, Goodwill, along with other sheltered workshops, will eventually receive enough public pressure to change their policies and pay all of their disabled workers a fair wage.