Goodwill sweatshops

From the September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Goodwill sweatshops

Chicago—Dozens of people gathered outside a Goodwill resale store on Racine in Chicago on July 26 to demonstrate against Goodwill Industries’ hiring disabled workers at steeply sub-minimum wages. Disabled Americans Want Work NOW called the action on the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Activists shouted, “Goodwill is bad will” and “Sub-minimum wages are outrageous,” getting support from passing truck drivers. They handed out leaflets to shoppers explaining how Goodwill used a legal loophole to pay disabled workers as little as pennies an hour. Those in wheelchairs were among the most forceful voices on the picket line, which got the attention of store management. After a delegation of picketers, including those in wheelchairs, went inside to deliver a letter, a Goodwill official came outside to speak to the picketers.

She stated her particular store employed nobody at sub-minimum wages and that no stores in the Illinois franchise of Goodwill Industries were hiring disabled workers under the 14 (c) loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Picketers continued to question her, demanding that she answer their letter promptly, and pressure Goodwill Industries branches using 14 (c) certificates, which steal wages from disabled employees.

Demonstrations across the country have called out Goodwill for staffing what are called sheltered shops with disabled workers paid as little as 22 cents an hour. Highly paid national executives have defended their shameful policy, and threatened to fire disabled workers if labor and disabled activists are able to close that loophole in labor law.

—Bob McGuire

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