Does Goodwill Exploit The Handicapped? NO. Here’s Why.

(this article is a crosspost from my new editorialize-about-videos blog at but is written by me, no less. There is comment forum there, also)

There is a news article making the rounds from August 10, 2013 by NBC, anchored by Brian Williams and correspondent Harry Smith investigates about how, purportedly, the American company called Goodwill is “exploiting” handicapped citizens and only paying them “pennies” per hour and how unfair it seems — and fails pretty hard at providing much counterevidence at how this might be a good thing, perhaps even a great thing.

The journalism fails pretty hard on several levels.

First, the amount of people they interviewed for a single-sided article is way off balance. The “against” side had several employees, handicapped rights promoters and defenders, and experts to weigh in. The “for” side had one not-especially-convincing representative who makes big money with Goodwill and has a vested interest but wasn’t shown to really defend it clearly enough, and the other was an employee who makes the lower wage and is glad for it.

Second, the news article seems to suggest that Goodwill is somehow skirting the law, and even goes so far as to suggest Goodwill is using a “loophole” to exploit these innocent individuals. That is complete rubbish.

Goodwill is obeying the law. Loopholes are generally twists in wording that don’t specifically allow certain way to interpret the law that allow sneaky people to get away with avoiding penalty. The Fair Labor Standards Act that the news item references doesn’t dance around the issue — it addresses the issue of handicapped workers bluntly and directly. There’s no loophole involved. Goodwill is essentially driving 45mph in a zone marked 45mph. Goodwill is both respecting and obeying the law, that the Fair Labor Standards Act establishes directly.

Third, paying a $0.22 wage is most certainly ethical. At the current American minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a wage of $0.22 per hour is [7.25/100 = 0.22/x], ((100*0.22)/7.25) approx 3 percent. Since by law, the wage of $0.22 is according to the metrics established that measure by how much capacity a person is able to work by comparison to a nonhandicapped individual doing the same tasks, the person who makes $0.22 per hour does about 3% as much as a non-handicapped worker. In the ordinary minimum wage market, doing only 3% work would get you fired, but in this case, the person who is only capable of 3% is permitted employment at the same rate at which a nonhandicapped worker is able to do based on the percentage the handicapped is able to perform. If Goodwill paid that 3% worker the full minimum wage, they would have to spend [x/100 = 7.25/3], ((100*72.5)/3) about $241 over a period of ~33 hours to get the same amount of work done as a nonhandicapped worker could do in a single hour.

What is happening here, instead, is that workers of notably reduced capacity to work are mercifully allowed to work in an environment that could be staffed by people who are much faster and leagues upon leagues more efficient, and are given a market-driven rate that is comparable to a nonhandicapped worker and is reviewed every 6 months to account for possibilities improvement of efficiency. The “but that could change” remark from the blind man and his wife in the above article could be taken both as “it could rise” or “it could lower” which is fair both to the employee and employer, under the law.

The solution here is not to avoid Goodwill. If you still, for some reason, believe these individuals need to be paid higher, I would recommend two courses of action:

(a) Write your elected officials. Being pressured to change the law to adapt to current circumstances is what lobbyists are paid by corporations to do, but that is also a power that you, as an individual, have right this very second to write to them to express your concerns over every conceivable topic. Write to your representatives about your concerns regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, regarding Section 214(c).

(b) Become employed by Goodwill and work your way up thru the offices in rank and make those kinds of changes yourself as the leadership in charge of making those kinds of decisions.

4 thoughts on “Does Goodwill Exploit The Handicapped? NO. Here’s Why.

  1. yes goodwill industries exploits the disabled by paying .22/hour you’re saying paying below minimum wage is ethical it’s not legal just plain wrong i didn’t have a intellectual or developmental disability to be paid $1.00/hour 30 years ago i worked for goodwill industries i quit after 34 days the disabled/non disabled have a right to be paid $7.25/hour or more you support the fair labor standards act of 1938 section 14c goodwill industries is the worst place to work for the ceo’s should make 0.01/hour not $280.00/hour i’m going to seek legal action against goodwill industries of central n.c. for back wages and vocational rehabilitation for withholding information about me i’m going to get the file marked confidential that has information on me and destroy it they will pay for this goodwill industries is a for profit charity their tax status section 501c3 should be revoked and the ceos salary zero make them work as slaves

    • Paying below minimum wage is not unethical or illegal. Wait staff, who are (arguably) not disabled, get paid less than minimum wage also. The quarrel you have is with the legal code that the business must obey, not the business itself. If you lobby your government reps, perhaps the legal standard will change toward your favor, but until then, they are obeying the law. Their practice is as unethical as it is to drive 44 in 45 mph speed-limited traffic. If you don’t want to work for that rate, then don’t work there.

  2. the ceo’s of non profit charities such as goodwill industries make more than the disabled non disabled i know all about goodwill industries i worked there 30 years i made $1.00/hour assembling spindle adapters for piece rate pay i made only 0.08 for each piece assembled you’re saying goodwill does not exploit the handicapped with sub minimum wage it’s unethical to pay .22/hour it’s hard to buy groceries

    • The ethics of the business are defined by law. If the practice is unethical, then you have a disagreement with the law, not the business. If the law changes, then the business will have to change also. Your quarrel is when the legal standard that the business must obey, not the business.

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