[Nfbnet-members-list] The Sin of Omission: A Re buttal of Goodwill’s Policy Statement on Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities

Lewis, Anil ALewis at nfb.org
Fri Jun 21 20:06:39 UTC 2013

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The Sin of Omission: A Rebuttal of Goodwill's Policy Statement on 
Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities

Submitted by alewis on Fri, 06/21/2013 - 08:40
Blog Date:
Friday, June 21, 2013
By Anil Lewis

With the pending broadcast of a national news story 
NBC<http://www.nbcnews.com/video/rock-center/52257275/> Rock Center 
tonight making the public aware of the legal ability for employers to 
pay workers with disabilities wages less than the federal minimum 
wage, Goodwill International, a self-proclaimed leader in the 
employment of people with disabilities, has decided to make a 
preemptive case for taking advantage of this unfair, discriminatory, 
and immoral 
position paper, entitled "Employment of People with Disabilities 
through FLSA Section 14(c)," is a failed attempt to justify the 
unjustifiable.  By using more palatable language, and stating a 
biased perspective without giving full information, Goodwill is 
committing a sin of omission, one that threatens to keep over 
four-hundred thousand people with disabilities from receiving the 
proper training and support to secure gainful employment at the 
federal minimum wage or higher.

Throughout the paper, Goodwill uses terms that attempt to soften the 
fact that it advocates for the payment of subminimum wages to workers 
with disabilities.  Goodwill prefers the term Commensurate Wage, 
which masks the fact that these wages are below the federal minimum, 
some as low as one cent per hour.  Goodwill prefers to use the term 
Community Rehabilitation Program, which is essentially the same old 
sheltered workshop setup that existed in 1938.  I have written blog 
posts on how Goodwill is using 
discrimination to paint themselves as the 
<https://nfb.org/blog/vonb-blog/victims-exemption>victims of the 
exemption who are only using existing law to take advantage of the 
wage fallacy.  The following paragraphs disclose what Goodwill chose to omit.

Goodwill chooses not to restate in this paper that 101 of its 165 
affiliates do not use a subminimum wage certificate.

Therefore, by Goodwill's own admission, the overwhelming majority of 
its affiliates are successful without the use of this "Essential 
Tool."  I guess that is why the paper offers the following 
disclaimer: "The information contained in this document represents 
the current view of Goodwill Industries International on the issues 
discussed as of the date of publication."  This means Goodwill 
International, where the blind CEO is paid over $500,000 per year by 
an organization that pays other people with disabilities 22 cents per 
hour, endorse this paper, but not all of its affiliates 
did.  Moreover, it is not legal to pay workers with disabilities 
subminimum wages in Canada, so the Goodwill Canadian affiliates do 
not have the legal ability to pay subminimum wages, and are still successful.

Goodwill chooses to play on the pre-existing misperception that 
people with disabilities do not have the capacity to be productive employees.

This has been proven false, over and over again, by people with a 
variety of disabilities, including those that Goodwill would label 
too severely disabled to work. The dismal picture Goodwill paints is 
more of a condemnation of its inability to properly train individuals 
with disabilities than a reflection of the potential of the worker 
with a disability.  Other entities, similarly situated, working with 
the same population of people with disabilities, are successful in 
providing the proper training and supports for these workers to 
secure employment at the federal minimum wage or higher.  Again, the 
majority of the Goodwill affiliates are doing it.  Why not all?

Goodwill states that people with disabilities and their families 
choose to work in these subminimum wage work environments.

The only choice they are being presented with is work at subminimum 
wages or no work at all.  This is the Goodwill choice, but not the 
only choice.  Goodwill chooses not to reference the reports that 
describe the innovative, alternative training and placement 
strategies that are being used to employ people with significant 
disabilities in competitive integrated work environments.  It does 
not reference the research that demonstrates that the innovative 
alternative strategies cost less and produce better outcomes for 
workers with disabilities.

Goodwill states that the National Council on Disability (NCD) has 
concerns about the significant unemployment rate of people with 
disabilities, but does not mention that 
has said that Section 14(c) of the FLSA should be repealed and 
subminimum wage payments to workers with disabilities should be phased out.

Goodwill states that it agrees with the position of the U. S. 
Business Leadership Network (USBLN) that for-profit employers should 
not be allowed to obtain Special Wage Certificates, but does not 
explain that USBLN only represents for-profit employers and therefore 
chose to limit its position statement to the businesses it serves.

So many questions go unanswered in the Goodwill paper.   If 
subminimum wages are such an essential tool for the employment of 
people with disabilities, why is it such a secret?  If the use of the 
subminimum wage is such a successful tool, why is there still an over 
70 percent unemployment rate for people with disabilities?  If 
subminimum wage payments are such an essential tool for Goodwill, why 
do almost two thirds of the Goodwill affiliates choose not to use this "tool?"

Goodwill's solution is to maintain the status quo, and to continue to 
use the revenue generated from the labor of its workers with 
disabilities, the revenue from the charitable contributions, the 
revenue from federal contracts, and the revenue resulting from its 
non-profit status, to compensate its executives with substantial 
salaries, rather than fairly compensating the workers with 
disabilities.  Moreover, Goodwill uses the revenue to market its 
message of low expectations to people with disabilities and their 
families, leading them down the path to perpetual public dependence, 
not full participation.

The most offensive use of the revenue received by these sheltered 
workshops is paying their lobbyists to persuade members of Congress 
to continue to allow them to legally pay these workers pennies per 
hour.  Finally, Goodwill suggests that its preferred solution is for 
the federal government to spend even more money to increase 
regulation and enforcement of this discriminatory policy, burying the 
exploitation under additional mountains of bureaucracy.  All of these 
funds would be better spent creating real training and employment 
opportunities for all people with disabilities.

We recognize that the competitive employment of people with 
disabilities presents significant challenges.  However, we feel that 
the use of subminimum wages is simply a cop-out, especially when we 
are aware of training and employment strategies that work.  We 
applaud all of the success stories that Goodwill uses to promote its 
services.  We just want and insist that Goodwill's employees are paid 
a fair wage.  If Goodwill, or the other entities currently taking 
advantage of this subminimum wage provision, cannot adopt a new 
business model that provides the training and support to allow the 
worker with a disability to earn at least the federal minimum wage, 
why should our public and philanthropic dollars continue to support them?

Mr. Anil Lewis, M.P.A.
Director of Advocacy and Policy

"Eliminating Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities"
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland   21230
(410) 659-9314 ext. 2374 (Voice)
(410) 685-5653 (FAX)
Email: alewis at nfb.org
Web: www.nfb.org
twitter: @anillife
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