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Vol. 78/No. 10      March 17, 2014

Disabled workers paid pennies by ‘nonprofits’
More than 200,000 workers in the U.S. are legally paid below minimum wage — sometimes pennies an hour — because they are physically or mentally disabled. To add insult to injury, most of these jobs are offered by so-called nonprofit organizations and painted as a form of charity.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, employers can obtain minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor, enabling them to set up “sheltered workshops” with no bottom limit to hourly wages for disabled workers. This allows companies to pay these workers based on how “productive” bosses say they are compared to workers without a disability.

This assault on labor and human dignity is detailed in a 2012 report by the National Council on Disability, a federal agency. In Columbus, Ohio, “a woman related a story about how after she got her job in the sheltered workshop she promised her family that when she got her first paycheck she would take them out to dinner,” the report said. “She related how surprised and sad she was when she received the first check — for 38 cents.”

At Goodwill Industries, a multi-billion dollar “nonprofit” business, thousands of disabled workers receive far less than the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage. Their wages rise and fall based on “time studies” performed every six months. “Some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2009,” reported NBC News.

According to the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, there are nearly 2,000 certified employers paying more than 216,000 workers a subminimum wage.
Related articles:
Garment workers in Cambodia fight for raise in minimum wage
On the Picket Line
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