One of the nation’s best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed.
Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company whose executives make six-figure salaries, is among the nonprofit groups permitted to pay thousands of disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c). Labor Department records show that some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011.
“If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they’re paying,” said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage.
Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons, who was awarded $729,000 in salary and deferred compensation in 2011, defended the executive pay.
“These leaders are having a great impact in terms of new solutions, in terms of innovation, and in terms of job creation,” he said. Gibbons also defended time studies, and the whole Section 14 (c) approach. He said that for many people who make less than minimum wage, the experience of work is more important than the pay.
“It’s typically not about their livelihood. It’s about their fulfillment. It’s about being a part of something. And it’s probably a small part of their overall program,” he said.