[Nfbnet-members-list] The Sin of Omission: A Re buttal of Goodwills Policy Statement on Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities
ALewis at nfb.org
Fri Jun 21 20:06:39 UTC 2013
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
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,
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"
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
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
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