Here’s what Andy Voss, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Sacramento, told me about Goodwill’s sub-minimum wage policy.
“Subminimum wage, as enforced by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, is wrong because it creates a double standard for how employees, particularly employees with disabilities, should be paid, by offering “special wage certificates”. It devalues the work that the 300,000 Americans with disabilities who work for subminimum wage do and keeps many of them in poverty. In most workplaces, our standard of minimum wage ensures that it is illegal to pay anyone, including people with disabilities, below a certain amount. It is appalling that organizations that purport to assist workers with disabilities in job training, would hold them back by circumventing the standard of living that minimum wage provides other American workers. Paying minimum wage would help put organizations that pay subminimum wage (164 in California alone, according to the Department of Labor) back in good standing with the disability communities Recall that the CEO of Goodwill Industries International, also a person with a disability, makes $500,000 a year, over $200 per hour, while reports have come in that some Goodwill employees with disabilities (particularly in sheltered workshops) are paid as little as $1.44 an hour or even roughly 20 cents an hour.
“Goodwill actually does not pay subminimum wage in all of its regional divisions or projects. This is why the NFB, ASAN and over 40 other disability rights organizations chose Goodwill as a highly visible organization that is ready to make minimum wage consistent across all their stores and projects, thereby setting a good example for other employers of people with disabilities.
“Supporters of subminimum wage, including many (but not all) Goodwill chapters, claim that minimum wage would cause many workers with disabilities to lose their SSI benefits and medical insurance, which is not actually true. In California, minimum wage is $8 an hour, which is $16,640 per year, assuming a 40-hour workweek and 52 weeks in a year. By these same calculations, the point at which SSI benefits completely phase out for a household of one is $27,925 per year, or $13.30 per hour. Plus, Medi-Cal’s buy-in program is available for workers with disabilities who make $45,924 or more per year, but who have less than $2,000 in savings. (You may wish to make similar calculations yourself for your home state.) In spite of these figures failing to support their arguments, Goodwill also claims in a counter-protest flyer distributed at the protest in Portland, Oregon that the perks they offer their workers (case management, respite care, etc.) justifies their use of subminimum wage, but there seems to be no reason that they cannot provide these benefits and also pay minimum wage or higher. The way Goodwill combines needed services with subminimum wage foots the bill for these services on people with disabilities directly instead of on the government.
“The National Federation of the Blind are the ones who ultimately coordinated the simultaneous national protests, about 80 in total. Their insights on subminimum wage, and a number of helpful links, can be found at nfb.org/fair-wages.”