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Goodwill Pays Some Employees Less Than $3 an Hour

Everyone knows Goodwill is a great place for bargains.  What many do not realize, however, is how much of a bargain Goodwill is getting in its workforce.

According to a recent report by Upworthy, Goodwill exploits a legal loophole that allows the thrift store giant to pay its workers far less than the minimum wage, less than $3.00 an hour in some cases.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 allows those hiring persons with disabilities, frequently referred to as sheltered workshops, to earn far less than the minimum wage for their work under the antiquated assumption that persons with disabilities cannot perform at the same level as their peers and thus should not be compensated equally.

Goodwill, which hires a large workforce with disabilities, often uses the legal loophole to pay their workers below the standard rate for retail workers.  In at least one case, Goodwill even used the law to reduce a legally blind woman’s wages from $3.50 to $2.75.

Sheila Leland ultimately quit her post at Goodwill rather than earn less than $3.00 hour, a wage she said would not pay her costs of getting to work each day. Yet according to disability advocates, Leland’s experience is not unique. Many workers with disabilities report similar low wages, some even less than one dollar an hour and sometimes based on regular performance tests that if failed, can reduce their wages further.

“The sheltered workshop system takes people and systemically tells them they are not as good as the rest of the workforce,” Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind said.

What is most shocking is that Goodwill, which relies on public donations to stock their stores, earned a whopping $5 billion in revenue last year, which, according to disability advocates, is more than enough to pay all their workers, including those participating in the disability training program, minimum wage.

“It is exploitation. They are able to collect charitable donations and present themselves as doing good work but don’t have to do right by their workers,” Ari Ne’eman of the  Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) stressed.

To make matters worse, Goodwill executives reportedly earn far above poverty wages, with a least four CEOs reporting income exceeding $400,000 a year, over 80 times more than the persons with disabilities they employ in their stores.

One former Goodwill employee and current disability advocate, who was interviewed for the report, says the staggering disparity “makes my head spin.”  She asks, “how can anybody possibly  go into human services thinking they are going to get rich, and do so on the labor of the most vulnerable citizens that we have?”

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Upworthy

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.