Residents protest disabled employees pay from Goodwill stores

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) People across the country protested Saturday in front of more than 80 Goodwill stores.

It was an effort to raise awareness that the thrift store pays its employees significantly less than minimum wage. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. a group of local members of the National Federation for the Blind protested outside a Myrtle Beach Goodwill store. The store said, by hiring these people, they're given a chance they may not get otherwise.

"With about 80,000 people with disabilities out of work or not working, Goodwill's job is to help people achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work," Tina Marshall, Vice President of Corporate Relations for Goodwill said.

But, the protestors didn't agree.

"I am sure they believe they're doing a good thing by hiring the disabled to do that even though they're paying less. But that's the same excuse they used 35 years ago to keep women out of the workforce, to keep black people out of the workforce. It's just plain wrong to treat someone different than you treat someone else," George Boyce said.

Goodwill's payment practices are legal. The Fair Labor Standards Act states, employers have been able to get special permission from the US Department of Labor since the 1930's to pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

"People that are paid under the special wage certificate are profoundly disabled. They have more than one disability and if it weren't for organizations like goodwill, they would be sitting at home, they wouldn't be working," Marshall said.

Marshall said although some employees are paid less than minimum wage, the average pay for the disabled workers is $8.91 per hour.

Boyce, who is blind himself, said this protest is an effort to get the word out and raise awareness.

"Literally it does affect me personally in that some people are not treated as fairly as other people. That should affect us all, shouldn't it?" Boyce said.

Legislation was introduced in 2011 to do away with the sub minimum wage altogether, but since it was introduced no additional action has been taken.

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