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Group stages minimum wage protest

Protesters, from left, Debbie McDonald, Max Parker and Donna Parker gather at the parking lot of Goodwill on Slappey Boulevard on Saturday. The group is promoting a boycott of Goodwill Industries until it adopts a responsible corporate policy to pay its workers with disabilities at least the federal minimum wage.

Protesters, from left, Debbie McDonald, Max Parker and Donna Parker gather at the parking lot of Goodwill on Slappey Boulevard on Saturday. The group is promoting a boycott of Goodwill Industries until it adopts a responsible corporate policy to pay its workers with disabilities at least the federal minimum wage.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Blind, with a prosthetic leg, in a wheelchair and resolute of purpose, a small group turned out at 11 a.m. Saturday in support of a minimum wage for the disabled.

They held their signs at the driveway entrance to the Goodwill center at 2017 N. Slappey Blvd. to support a federal law under consideration: the Fair Wage for Workers with Disabilities Act that would guarantee them the same minimum wage as nonhandicapped workers.

"It isn't at this Goodwill store, but there are other places and nonprofits that pay way under minimum wage," said Debbie McDonald, spokeswoman for the National Federation of the Blind. "All we are asking is to abolish the subminimum wage. We want people to be aware of it."

The about 50 Southern Georgia and Alabama Goodwill stores under the umbrella of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers company pay a minimum of $7.35 to new hires, said Jane Nichols, president and CEO of the company. After 90 days, employees can qualify for a raise.

This is not true nationwide, Nichols said. There are places where nonprofits are operating legally under a law passed in 1938 that allows wages far less than minimum. Wages as low as 22 cents an hour are paid, according to the federation.

The present law allows such action under section 14(c), which grants a special wage certificate. From its inception, Nichols said, Southern Rivers did not apply for or want the certificate.

"Our board of directors (nonpaid volunteers) voted against it," she said. "None of our stores or centers pays below minimum."

Any claims that shops would not be able to stay open if the pay were higher aren't true, a bulletin from the federation states. Nonprofit revenue is generated by the labor of the worker, but the organizations also receive money from donations and the government.

Under the new law, the Secretary of Labor would no longer issue new special wage certificates, and the old certificates would be phased out over three years.

The disabled need the help of citizens in Southwest Georgia, said Max Parker, of the Southwest Chapter of the national Federation of the Blind. Call, write and email your elected officials in support of H.R. 3086, he urged.

Comments

chinaberry25 2 years, 2 months ago

Do you draw SSI too? If you are paid more, you will have to give up those benefits.

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Trustbuster 2 years, 1 month ago

Goodwill is a nonprofit business and unfortunately has the right to pay these types of wages. The problem with wages in general is that our fed. govt. often inflates currency which lowers the value of the pay. As an economist told me prices increase but wages fail to keep up. Sometimes creating a wage-price spiral inflation. The worker never gets to appreciate the real amount of wages.

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VSU 2 years, 1 month ago

The flip side may be if they got the increase, they may employ less people to offset any increase of expense being paid out despite what is said in the story. The shop may stay open, but with less employees so whereas some may make more, some person might be left out in the cold. However .22 cents an hour is a ridiculous wage handicapped or not. Just because a person is handicapped doesn't mean that person can't perform a good effort.

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agirl_25 2 years, 1 month ago

I don't understand how any of this wage battle works. I went on SS disabilty in 2003 because of severe spinal stenosis of the cervical and lumbar spine. None of the conventional treatments worked and I was severely disabled by the stenosis, unable to walk. I filed online and was approved within 90 days and received direct deposit of my disability check within 120 days with back pay of one year's payment of time missed from work. The surgery took place in May 2002, I decided to file in 2003 and did, and gathered all the information via the Internet, did all the filing via the Internet and only had to leave the house once to see a doctor of the SS administration's choice about a follow up visit I guess to check the validity of my claim. I then received a letter from the SSA asking if I would be interested in a Back_to_Work program that would allow me to make $8.00 an hour in addition to my disability check and it would in no way affect my income of my check. I cannot remember the specifics of the work program but it would allow me to keep my skills intact and I guess it meant I could maybe find a job as a medical coder or a transcriber of doctor's notes as I had been a nurse for years and had at one time worked in Civil Service with NASA....who knows..but I had typing skills. I don't understand the 22 cents deal...these people are just as handicapped as I am and yet they offered me $8.00 an hour? I did not take the job offer. I have no idea if the program is still operating or not. I guess one could look on the SSA.gov web page.

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agirl_25 2 years, 1 month ago

Ohhhhhhhhh..I found it.....here is the URL....http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10060.html#a0=0

I suppose they sent it to me because I was in my 50's when I went on SS disability and they felt I may be able to still work. As you can see under this program you do not lose your cash benefits if you are drawing SSI as explained in the Ticket to Work program info. I am glad it was voluntary and not mandatory because there was no way I would have been able to work, neither sitting or standing.

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Roundman 2 years, 1 month ago

Why are they protesting? "Our board of directors (nonpaid volunteers) voted against it," she said. "None of our stores or centers pays below minimum." - They are not working anyone for .20 cents an hour -- My goodness lady --get real-- You are acting like the majority of unemployed Albany residents - If you are dis-abled --THEN HOW MUCH DO YOU EXPECT TO MAKE AN HOUR WORKING AT GOODWILL?? $30.00AN HOUR? iS THAT ENOUGH? There is some --I said some ABLE bodied people that would like to work for minimum wage? OBOMA voters all want more ---gimmie - gimmie --gimmie!!!

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agirl_25 2 years, 1 month ago

See that is what I don't understand....are they saying GOODWILL won't pay them minimum wage and where does the 22 cents an hour fit in and is the program GOODWILL hires them under the same one that I was sent the information about when I had my spinal sugery back in 02? There are so many programs out there under so many different names it is hard to keep up. When I got the information in 02 and the salary was $8.00 an hour it makes me wonder what it would be now, 10 years later. I read minimum was $6.72 in 2002. I just shake my head sometimes and tell myself it is no wonder we are in the fix we are in. I still don't understand the methods of their madness in the SSA. We are just as disabled as the next....let them work.....they are willing to work....let them work.....!!

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DebbieMcDonald 2 years, 1 month ago

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, allows the Secretary of Labor to issue special wage certificates that allow Goodwill and other employers of workers with disabilities to pay these workers less than the federal minimum wage. There is no “floor” under the subminimum wages that these workers can be paid. The National Federation of the Blind has obtained information from the Department of Labor that some Goodwill employees with disabilities earn as little as twenty-two cents an hour.

Goodwill is one of the most lucrative and well-known charities in the United States. It claims that 101 of its 165 affiliates are already paying at least the federal minimum wage to employees with disabilities. In addition to its manufacturing operations, Goodwill profits through its thrift stores, which resell donated goods; thus, Goodwill is in a better position than most to set a good example by abolishing the practice of paying disabled workers subminimum wages. Yet Goodwill opposes any change to the law that allows this practice and has made it clear that it has no intention of changing its policies.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (H.R. 3086), which is supported by the National Federation of the Blind and nearly fifty other organizations of people with disabilities, has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Congressmen Cliff Stearns of Florida and Tim Bishop of New York, and has eighty additional co-sponsors. Goodwill might assert this as its mission, but the data show that less than 5 percent of workers with disabilities working in subminimum wage work environments transition into real jobs. Moreover, research shows that many of the skills acquired in a sheltered, subminimum-wage work environment must be unlearned in order for a worker with a disability to obtain competitive, integrated employment. 

Some argue that there are those individuals who are so severely disabled that they cannot be competitively employed. New strategies evolve every day that prove this statement to be false. Subminimum wage labor provides neither tangible nor intangible benefits. There are no tangible benefits because the pay is too low. There are no intangible benefits because the low pay tells the workers that they are inferior to people who earn the minimum wage or higher and constantly reinforces this false belief. This can lead only to a downward spiral of demoralization and despair. If there are truly individuals too severely disabled to perform competitive work, it does not follow that employment at subminimum wages is the best outcome for these individuals. There is a better reality that we can provide for these individuals than toiling away, day after day, for pennies an hour.

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DebbieMcDonald 2 years, 1 month ago

Goodwill is able to sell the products made by these workers to the federal government and to private industry. It is therefore obvious that these workers are making quality products, and they should therefore be paid real wages for doing real work. People with disabilities who are being paid pennies per hour do not have jobs. They cannot lose what they do not have. Effort should be focused on finding them real jobs that pay real wages, or focused on training them for such jobs. We applaud all Goodwill affiliates that are paying at least the federal minimum wage, but the fact is that they are still part of an organization that has an official policy of allowing subminimum wage payments.
visit www.nfb.org/fairwages

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