Goodwill Industries says that it doesn’t have enough money to pay all of its workers the federal minimum wage. As first reported by Watchdog.org, more than 100 Goodwill entities throughout the country use a controversial Depression-era program that allows it to pay people with disabilities just pennies per hour.
While the organization cries poor when it comes to workers’ wages, it has no problem spending money on online advertisements defending its labor practices. Google searches for “Goodwill worker wages,” “Goodwill wages,” “Goodwill pay,” and “Goodwill disabled,” all produced a sponsored ad, paid for by Goodwill, in the top search result.
“Goodwill worker wages?,” one sponsored advertisement reads. “Get your questions answered here.”
The advertisements direct users to a Goodwill webpage that defends its labor practices. On its website, Goodwill states that the special wage program is “one of the many tools that some Goodwill agencies use to help people with significant and multiple disabilities.” The organization adds that, without the special exemption, it could not afford to keep all of its disabled workers on payroll.
“Without the law, many people with disabilities could lose their jobs and it would take away their choice,” Goodwill says in one fact sheet about the program.
That raises the question: instead of spending money on paid advertisements to defend its low wages, why doesn’t it just use that money to pay workers more?
Goodwill did not responded to an email request for comment about the advertisements. The size and budget of Goodwill’s online advertising blitz is unknown. Cost-per-click rates vary by search term, from a few pennies to a few dollars. However, the ads would be on par with some Goodwill workers’ pay, which is as low as 22 cents per hour.
The organization also sponsored advertisements for searches related to the keywords, “Goodwill CEO pay.” The search results direct users to a webpage about its executive compensation policies. As first reported by Watchdog.org, the highest paid Goodwill executive received more than $1.1 million in total compensation last year.
“Goodwill salaries are appropriate to the performance of our CEO, the established market and our nonprofit industry,” the webpage states.
Last month, a Watchdog.org investigation revealed that 109 Goodwill entities in North America employ workers through the Special Wage Certificate program, while simultaneously spending more than $53.7 million in total compensation for top executives. NBC News’ Rock Center featured a similar expose that failed to properly attribute the source of its investigation.