Please Read This.
This is a Very complex issue. I don't like "non-profit" CEO's making megabucks and ripping off their disabled workers.
Another thing which bothers me is disabled workers being paid according to a time study. That time study is Never compared with the time taken by Non-disabled workers to do the same jobs. What I suspect is that the performance of Non-disabled workers varies a lot. Does the "able-bodied" worker have a headache? Does he/she have to go to the bathroom? Is she having "morning sickness" accompanying pregnancy? Is that worker lacking sleep due to not having air conditioning, heat, or proper nutrition? Is the worker distracted by a serious family problem, fight, or illness? If so, the able-bodied worker's pay Is Not Cut due to one time study result. His/her pay isn't Constantly jumping up and down, Preventing budgeting. But that is Exactly the situation disabled workers in this article are subjected to. And they may have all of the Same issues and More effecting their job performances.
These two things are clear in my mind and both of them suck.
What is complicated is that some people with disabilities cannot do the work of others with disabilities. Some people need and/or like the sheltered workshop at which they work. As for protection at such work places, sometimes it happens and at other times employers or other workers are abusive in various ways. This has been documented.
So, should workers who cannot perform at the level of those said to be "normal" in body and mind be paid minimum wage? I'm not certain.
What I Do think is that, including any SSI (Supplemental Security Income) they receive, these workers Should be paid enough money to live on and this usually doesn't happen. The same is true of workers who receive SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) because they were able to work in the past.
And What constitutes "enough to live on?" The Buddha said people need food, shelter, medicine, and clothing. But many disabled And Non-disabled people lack these four basics. I think it also helps to have enough money to be able to make some choices. An occasional change in diet, a monthly ice cream break or meal out, some small treat, ($15 or less) even these things can keep being poor from being Totally Borring. Others would label me a "liberal spender" for adding these treats to break up the monotony. How much money is enough to live on?
Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour – and it's legal
By Anna Schecter, Producer, NBC News
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
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
earned wages as Pennsylvania
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
for less than minimum Great Falls, Montana
"It's a question of civil rights," added his wife, Sheila, blind from birth, who
quit her job at the same Goodwill store when her already low wage was cut further.
"I feel like a second-class citizen. And I hate it."
Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows
employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor.
The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their
abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage.
Most, but not all, special wage certificates are held by nonprofit organizations
like Goodwill that then set up their own so-called "sheltered workshops" for disabled
employees, where employees typically perform manual tasks like hanging clothes.
The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit
workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue
Service centers. Between the sheltered workshops and the outside businesses, more
than 216,000 workers are eligible to earn less than minimum wage because of Section
14 (c), though many end up earning the full federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Harold Leigland, who is blind, with his guide dog on the bus during his morning commute
to the Goodwill facility in
, where he works hanging clothing. Great Falls, Montana
When a non-profit provides Section 14 (c) workers to an outside business, it sets
the salary and pays the wages. For example, the
, a New Helen Keller National Center
students in a Westbury, N.Y., Applebee's franchise. The employees' pay ranged from
$3.97 per hour to $5.96 per hour in 2010. The franchise told NBC News it has also
hired workers at minimum wage from Helen Keller. A spokesperson for Applebee's declined
to comment on Section 14 (c).
Helen Keller also placed several students at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhasset,
N.Y., in 2010, where they earned $3.80 and $4.85 an hour. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman
defended the Section 14 (c) program as providing jobs to "people who would otherwise
not have [the opportunity to work]."
Most Section 14 (c) workers are employed directly by nonprofits. In 2001, the most
recent year for which numbers are available, the GAO estimated that more than 90
percent of Section 14 (c) workers were employed at nonprofit work centers.
Critics of Section 14 (c) have focused much of their ire on the nonprofits, where
wages can be just pennies an hour even as some of the groups receive funding from
the government. At one workplace in
run by a nonprofit, some employees earned Florida
one cent per hour in 2011.
"People are profiting from exploiting disabled workers," said Ari Ne'eman, president
of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "It is clearly and unquestionably exploitation."
Defenders of Section 14 (c) say that without it, disabled workers would have few
options. A Department of Labor spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News that
Section 14 (c) "provides workers with disabilities the opportunity to be given meaningful
work and receive an income."
Terry Farmer, CEO of ACCSES, a trade group that calls itself the "voice of disability
service providers," said scrapping the provision could "force [disabled workers]
to stay at home," enter rehabilitation, "or otherwise engage in unproductive and
Harold Leigland, however, said he feels that Goodwill can pay him a low wage because
the company knows he has few other places to go. "We are trapped," he said. "Everybody
who works at Goodwill is trapped."
Leigland, a 66-year-old former massage therapist with a college degree, currently
earns $5.46 per hour in
. Great Falls
His wages have risen and fallen based on "time studies," the method nonprofits use
to calculate the salaries of Section 14 (c) workers. Staff members use a stopwatch
to determine how long it takes a disabled worker to complete a task. That time is
compared with how long it would take a person without a disability to do the same
task. The nonprofit then uses a formula to calculate a salary, which may be equal
to or less than minimum wage. The tests are repeated every six months.
Harold Leigland works at the Goodwill facility in
, where he Great Falls, Montana
earns $5.46 an hour.
Leigland's pay has been higher than $5.46, but it has also dropped down to $4.37
per hour, based on the time-study results.
He said he believes Goodwill makes the time studies harder when they want his wage
to be lower.
"Sometimes the test is easier than others. It depends on if, as near as I can figure,
they want your wage to go up or down. It's that simple," he said.
His wife, Sheila, 58, spent four years hanging clothes at the Great Falls Goodwill
for about $3.50 an hour. She said the time study was one of the most degrading and
stressful parts about her job. "You never know how it's going to come out. It stressed
me out a lot," she said.
She quit last summer when she returned to work after knee surgery and found that
her wage had been lowered to $2.75 per hour, a training rate.
"At $2.75 it would barely cover my cost of getting to work. I wouldn't make any money,"
Harold said he believes Goodwill can afford to pay him minimum wage, based on the
salaries paid to Goodwill executives. While according to the company's own figures
about 4,000 of the 30,000 disabled workers Goodwill employs at 69 franchises are
currently paid below minimum wage, salaries for the CEOs of those franchises that
hold special minimum wage certificates totaled almost $20 million in 2011.
In 2011 the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California took home $1.1 million
in salary and deferred compensation. His counterpart in
, made more Portland, Oregon
than $500,000. Salaries for CEOs of the roughly 150 Goodwill franchises across
total more than $30 million.
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,"
And Goodwill and the organizations that run the sheltered workshops are not alone
in their support for Section 14 (c). In many cases, the families of the workers who
have severe disabilities say their loved ones enjoy the work experience, enjoy getting
a paycheck, and the amount is of no consequence.
Sheila Leigland, who is blind, with her guide dog. She quit her job at Goodwill in
"I feel really good about it. I don't have to worry so much about him," said Fran
Davidson, whose son Jeremy has worked at Goodwill in
, for more Great Falls, Montana
than a decade. "I know he's not getting picked on, and he's in a safe place. He enjoys
what he's doing, and he's happy, and that's what we like for our kids." Jeremy started
out working for a sub-minimum wage but did well on his last time study and is currently
earning $7.80 an hour,
's minimum wage. Montana
But foes of Section 14 (c) have hopes for a new bill that's now before Congress that
would repeal Section 14 (c) and make sub-minimum wages illegal across the board.
"Meaningful work deserves fair pay," the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gregg Harper,
R.-Miss., told NBC News. "This dated provision unjustly prohibits workers with disabilities
from reaching their full potential."
The bill is opposed by trade associations for the employers of the disabled, and
past attempts to change the law have failed. But Marc Maurer, president of the National
Federation of the Blind and a foe of the sheltered workshop system, is cautiously
optimistic that this time the bill will pass, and end what he called a "two-tiered
That system, explained Maurer, says "'Americans who have disabilities aren't as valuable
as other people,' and that's wrong. These folks have value. We should recognize that
Monica Alba contributed to this report.