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Meaningful Work for People with Disabilities

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We welcome the concern that many Americans have shown for improving employment opportunities and quality of life for others in their community, which has been a key element of Goodwill’s mission for more than a century.

As North America’s leading nonprofit provider of employment training, job placement services and other community-based programs for people with severe barriers to employment, Goodwill takes these concerns seriously. Get the facts about Goodwill’s employment of people with disabilities, and learn firsthand from the people who have benefited from Goodwill services and work opportunities.

Special Minimum Wage Certificate Challenges

Nick Vaughan

Recent media reports have generated interest in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Special Minimum Wage Certificate and its use by more than 3,300 employers throughout the country, including some Goodwill agencies, to employ people with multiple or significant disabilities.

The petition recently sponsored by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network on Change.org painted an inaccurate picture of Goodwill and the use by some Goodwill agencies of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Special Minimum Wage Certificate.

The petition takes isolated incidences of a few workers under the certificate and implies that they are typical for Goodwill. For reasons of privacy, we can’t comment on the specific circumstances of any individual trainee, former trainee, program participant, or current or former employee. However, we can say that this level of pay is extremely atypical for Goodwill.

Our recent data shows the average hourly pay of Goodwill employees who are paid utilizing the Special Minimum Wage Certificate is approximately $7.47 an hour. Five to seven percent of Goodwill’s more than 113,000 team members are paid in programs utilizing the Special Minimum Wage Certificate. We are proud of these team members’ contributions. Goodwill also employs another 25,000 employees with disabilities who are integrated throughout the Goodwill workforce and community. Our data shows that these employees earn an average annualized salary of about $29,000.

It is also inaccurate to assert that Goodwill “exploits” the Special Minimum Wage Certificate. This tool is an intentional policy of the U.S. Department of Labor intended to create vocational opportunities for people with severe disabilities who otherwise would not have them. It is one of the many tools a Goodwill agency might use in assisting individuals with severe disabilities gain skills and be a part of a workforce after assessing their capabilities, abilities, wants and desires, while at the same time providing them with assistive technology, health care, transportation and other support services.

Nearly 80 percent of people with disabilities nationwide are not part of the workforce. It’s clear that the marketplace does not provide adequate job opportunities for them. The Special Minimum Wage Certificate opens up opportunities to people who otherwise would not be offered a job, and it allows employers to focus on what people with significant disabilities can do, not on what they can’t.

Goodwill supports reforms aimed at preventing the exploitation and abuse of people who have disabilities, and we strongly support programs that will lead to an increase in competitive integrated employment for this population. However, eliminating the Special Minimum Wage Certificate will harm – not help – people with multiple or significant disabilities.

Additional Resources for Learning about the Special Minimum Wage

Special message from Goodwill’s Director of Mission Strategy
Our View: Don’t discount Goodwill’s Good Will
Do Goodwill CEOs Make Millions? (719Woman.com)

Skills Advancement and Work Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Angela and Bryan

“Goodwill has really filled a void that people need. They’ve had a huge effect on our family. I know my son is happy because he has a smile on his face.” – Angela

Bryan is a 27-year-old man diagnosed with Down Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He completed a situational assessment with Goodwill and was referred to an extended employment program.

Bryan’s mother, Angela, uses a wheelchair due to her cerebral palsy. Her mobility concerns make her uncomfortable when taking her son to social venues. Goodwill has offered them both employment and a social outlet. As a result, Bryan’s speech impairment has improved, increasing his ability to communicate at home and develop through Goodwill programming. He can now often be observed laughing with peers and joining in conversation.

Goodwill Issue Brief:
Special Minimum Wage Certificate
Position Paper: Special Minimum Wage
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