Goodwill Industries, a highly rated charity best known for the thousands of thrift shops run by its network of local affiliates, finds itself on the defensive after recent complaints that the group pays disabled workers as little as $1.44 an hour.
Goodwill Industries participates in a U.S. Department of Labor program that permits employers to pay physically and mentally disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That has drawn ire from the National Federation of the Blind, which supports legislation to phase out the program.
“Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known and lucrative charitable organizations in the United States, yet it chooses to pay its workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage,” said Marc Maurer, president of the federation. “That Goodwill Industries exploits many of its workers in this way is ironic, because its president and chief executive officer is blind. Goodwill cannot credibly argue that workers with disabilities are incapable of doing productive work while paying its blind CEO over half a million dollars a year.”
Maurer acknowledges that use of the federal program is widespread, but said many nonprofit organizations with disabled workers have transitioned to paying all of their employees the minimum wage or higher. His organization has called for a boycott of Goodwill.
Goodwill says about 7,300 of its 105,000 employees are paid under the Department of Labor program, which permits employers to pay “commensurate wages” – essentially the prevailing pay for the job, discounted by the extent to which an employee’s disability affects his or her ability to do the work. The program “enables Goodwill and thousands of other employers to provide opportunities to people with severe disabilities who otherwise might not be part of the workforce,” Goodwill said in a statement.
While the two nonprofits duke it out, click on the links below for a look at the finances of each group.