By Annie Lane
Having relied on Goodwill for years as the place to drop off my “unwanteds” in the hope they would find new life with people who could better appreciate them (the tax write off was a nice touch, too), it saddens me to discover that the famous thrift store is, in many ways, just another large company run by a disconnected wealthy few who have forgotten what it means to demonstrate humanity, or, more aptly, good will unto others.
Sure, as the video below states, it should not be forgotten the incredible impact Goodwill has had on the communities it inhabits, including the countless people it has hired, disabled and otherwise. But wouldn’t you know that, much like President Obama’s current approval rating, my tolerance for companies that do mostly good while still managing to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable members of society is at an all time low.
So, along with all that good, it also should not be forgotten that the company’s CEOs choose to treat many of their disabled employees as less than the average worker. In fact, according to this NBC’s Wage War, many of Goodwill’s disabled employees are making as little as 22 cents an hour thanks to a loophole in the outdated Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This can only be classified as pathetic and inexcusable especially when many of Goodwill’s CEOs make more than $400,000 annually. In 2011, the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California pocketed a hefty $1.1 million.
For those quick to jump and call this a cry for Socialism, it’s anything but. It isn’t even a demand for the return of that good, old ghost of the American Dream. It’s simply a request for the federal minimum wage (pathetic in and of itself, but another topic entirely) for all workers, regardless of any mental or physical limitations, in exchange for a job well done.
Dana Levy says
What with the Goodwill being not a “goodwill” employer and the Salvation Army being a gay bashing discriminating group, where are we to take our still usable articles for redistribution? The SA is bogged down in idiotic religious dogma and can’t see that even the actual ARMY has finally allowed gays to serve proudly and openly in the service to their country. Just like the Boy Scouts (an Army wanna be) The SA does NOT! Then the Goodwill has the gall to not pay at least the “minimum” wage that all Americans think is the lowest that can be paid. This lumps their loyal and hard working disabled workers in the same category as waiters and waitresses. But, NO TIPS (and no way to offset the discrepancy!) Discrimination at all levels should be reviled and throwing your stuff in the trash seems like a better solution rather than supporting the perpetuation of this slimy policies by the Goodwill (or not, as the case may be) or the Salvation (with restrictions) Army. Perhaps there are local groups that could do better at helping low wage earners in redistributing usable articles into the community and we should all investigate the alternatives before blindly giving our own “fruits of our labors” to either of these lucrative (to some, at least) mega-agencies.
Lori Saldaña says
Dana- good points. I just delivered a few boxes of household stuff to the Animal Protection and Rescue League thrift store at 5947 Clairemont Mesa blvd. and plan to deliver more in coming months.
They support animal welfare/humane issues and are locally owned and operated.
bob dorn says
Ouch. This is a story that exists in the niches between our traditional
respect for charities and the suspicion we all have that greed is going
to kill this country. Good to see it, Annie.
A quick trip to the ‘net reveals these harsh realities contained within
a Forbes Magazine article citing studies by several groups representing
the blind, the autistic and other of the disabled:
— In Pennsylvania, Goodwill Industries has paid hourly wages of 22,
38 and 41 cents per/hour depending on the abilities of the employees;
— A federal exemption from minimum wage requirements allows
companies to pay beneath the minimum wage if the company employs
— The CEO of Goodwill International makes $434,252 annually, and a
survey of 150 local managers of Goodwill stores reveals they are paid yearly
an average of about $200,000.
Next, we’ll hear that Walmart will be hiring the disabled.
Although I’m astonished and disappointed, I do thank you for this article. I truly believe this sort of reporting helps change the world for the better. If anyone has suggestions of places that are more ethically run to which we can donate used goods, kindly share the information.
Lori Saldaña says
Dianne- please see my reply to Dana for one suggestion.
Thanks for bring this to light in a time when most of us are giving something extra, mine will not be to Goodwill!
Steve Zivolich says
Here is the letter to the President from the National Council on Disability (NCD), recommending the end of sheltered workshops and sub minimum wages.
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
August 23, 2012
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am pleased to submit NCD’s report, Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment.
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers certified by the United States Department of Labor to compensate persons with disabilities for work at a rate less than the minimum wage – a wage set by Congress for all other workers in the United States. Many disability advocates argue that 14(c) should be abolished because it discriminates against people with disabilities and is thus inconsistent with our national disability policy goals enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Others argue that the subminimum wage certification program still has an important role among a range of employment options because it provides opportunities to people with disabilities who are unable to obtain competitive employment jobs. Debates among advocates and policy-makers about the future of Section 14(c) have often been divisive, and consensus has been elusive.
NCD recognized it had a unique opportunity to develop a constructive path forward on subminimum wage policy. Following discussion at a December 2011 meeting of the Council, I appointed Council Member Clyde Terry as Chair of a Subminimum Wage Committee to examine the issue and bring forward recommendations to the full Council.
The recommendations contained in this report reflect the considered judgment and analysis of NCD. As part of our exploration we engaged in a series of site visits around the country to learn from the ground up about how policies are actually working in the lives of people with disabilities. Our report is not empirical in its approach, but we have tried to capture the essence of all of the voices and perspectives we heard. Our comprehensive recommendations seek to be responsive to all of the opportunities and concerns identified.
The central theme of our recommendations is that the 14(c) program should be phased-out gradually as part of a systems change effort that enhances existing resources and creates new mechanisms for supporting individuals in obtaining integrated employment and other non-work services. The comprehensive system of supports we propose is designed to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities. NCD recommends a phase-out of the 14(c) program rather than immediate repeal because those who have been in the program for many years need time to transition to a supported employment environment. Our comprehensive approach includes formal requirements of mandatory information-sharing to workers, as well as informal systems of peer support and incentives to states and providers to expand supported employment services in integrated settings.
NCD further recommends that the United States Department of Education should improve K-12 education and expand opportunities for higher education and postsecondary training for persons with disabilities. As with all of our disability policies and programs, our transition programs and supportive employment programs should strive for maximum self-sufficiency. The end result will be greater opportunities and a stronger, more inclusive workforce for American businesses.
NCD recognizes that a report such as this is a starting point rather than the final word on overhauling a longstanding policy and program. NCD stands ready to assist you in taking the next steps to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency.
Jonathan Young, Ph.D., J.D.
Steve Zivolich says
For donations, I have found a local food bank, that is not affiliated with a religious group.
You may be able to find one in your area.
I worked for Goodwill (Illwill) in Northwest North Carolina, for 4 months in 2006.
They advertised work programs and classes. From what I saw the work programs were a front to qualify for charity status. All their money went into tractor trailers, and building new outlets.
They caught a worker giving a t- shirt to her girlfriend and they called the police.
A handicapped man who worked there for 30 yrs. , confided one day, ” look they hire all Mexicans and no handicapped.” That was the case. The only handicapped, were, long time workers.
I used to call them the red neck mafia. These people were brutal, so caught up in themselves and greedy as sin.
Employees were not allowed to talk to the press.
I have been waiting for the chickens to come home to roost, maybe this is the beginning.
tim b3ennett says
mjt i worked at goodwill industries of central north carolina at 1235 south eugene street greensboro nc for 34 days vocational rehabilitation referred me to goodwill the vr counselor judy lockhart said i had to work another 30 days and take work adjustment classes i said i’m not interested the work adjustment coordinator asked me if anyone said bad things about goodwill i have one thing to say about goodwill’s so called charity status they use that as a front to pay subminimum wages and take advantage of disabled/non disabled workers to vocational rehabalilitation and goodwill industries take your subminimum certifcate and dot renew it it’s slavery like industrial services a sweatshop