FAIR WAGES FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES

The Issue | Supporting Organizations | Petition | Special Wage Certificates | Goodwill | Research | In the News | VideosBackground and History | Articles | Press Releases | Policy Statements | Contact

The Issue of Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities

Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (TIME Act) (H.R. 188) (S. 2001) 

Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities from reaching their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.

Written in 1938, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) discriminates against people with disabilities. The provision allows the Secretary of Labor to grant Special Wage Certificates to employers, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. This is based on the false assumption that disabled workers are less productive than nondisabled workers, but successful employment models have emerged in the last seventy-five years to assist people with significant disabilities in acquiring the job skills needed for competitive work. Section 14(c) sustains segregated subminimum wage workshops that exploit disabled workers, paying some only pennies an hour for mundane, repetitive tasks.

The subminimum wage model fails to provide adequate training or employment to disabled workers. Data shows that less than five percent of the four-hundred thousand workers with disabilities in segregated subminimum wage workshops will transition into competitive integrated work. Moreover, research shows that the subminimum wage model costs more but actually produces less! In fact, workers must unlearn the useless skills they acquire in order to obtain meaningful employment. It is poor policy to reward such failed programs with wage exemptions, preferential federal contracts, and public and charitable contributions.

After more than seventy-five years of demonstrated failure, it is time to invest in proven, effective models for employment. Section 14(c) sustains the same segregated subminimum wage environments that existed in 1938 and has proven to be extremely ineffective and offers no incentive for mainstream employers to hire people with disabilities. The EmploymentFirst Movement promotes new concepts such as “supported” or “customized” employment that are successful at producing competitive integrated employment outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities that were previously thought to be unemployable.

The Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act will responsibly phase out Section 14(c) over a three year period and will eventually repeal the antiquated and discriminatory practice of paying people with disabilities subminimum wages. Americans with disabilities will no longer be trapped in segregated subminimum wage workshops. Current service providers will have three years to transition to a proven competitive integrated training and employment business model that assists individuals with even the most significant disabilities obtain real jobs at real wages.

To learn more about the issue and the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act, please read our frequently asked questions document.

NFB Fact Sheet (Web, WordPDFAudio)

Frequently Asked Questions (Word)

Supporting Organizations and Letters of Support

Full list of supporting organizations

The following are letters supporting the repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA:

Sign Our Fair Wages Petition

You can now support the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to eliminate the practice of paying wages below the federal minimum to workers with disabilities by signing our online petition. Please sign the petition and share it with all of your colleagues, friends, and family.

List of Special Wage Certificate Holders

The CRP Worksheet, an excel spreadsheet downloadable from the U.S. Department of Labor, lists almost three-thousand employers that hold certificates issued under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These certificates permit the employers to pay subminimum-wages, wages that are less than the federal minimum wage, to over four-hundred thousand of their workers with disabilities. The link below takes you to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s current list of certificate-holding entities.
 

Goodwill Industries Chooses to Pay Subminimum Wages

Goodwill is a household name, but most households do not realize that Goodwill Industries International is one of the many employers that pay less than the federal minimum wage to workers with disabilities while top executives receive more than $53.7 million in total compensation. This fact was exposed by John Hrabe in the story "Policies, tax dollars enrich Goodwill execs," published by Watchdog.org in early May 2013. 

Subsequently, Goodwill’s use of this practice, and attempts to defend it, were highlighted by NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams on June 21, 2013, with the story, “Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour-and it's legal.”

Goodwill, in its attempt to represent Section 14(c) as an essential tool for the provision of quality training or competitive employment of people with disabilities, actually demonstrates that entities can operate successfully without paying subminimum wages. Goodwill states that one-hundred and one of its affiliates operate successfully without paying subminimum-wages to their workers with disabilities. However, rather than adopting a policy to require the other sixty-four affiliates to operate in a similar fashion, the Goodwill representatives state that it is a local decision for these affiliates to pay their workers with disabilities subminimum-wages and that they support this choice. In order to effect change in this policy, we are urging people not to shop at thrift stores affiliated with Goodwill Industries International and/or donate goods to Goodwill until it adopts a policy requiring each of its affiliates to pay at least the federal minimum wage to all of their workers with disabilities.

On Saturday, August 25, 2012, the NFB and its affiliates and chapters conducted over ninety informational protests of Goodwill thrift store locations across the country. The purpose of the protests was to promote public awareness of the unfair, discriminatory, and immoral practice of paying subminimum-wages to workers with disabilities.  

Read about protests across the country:

On October 31, 2013, members of the NFB, along with representatives of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), unmasked Goodwill's exploitation of workers with disabilities by delivering copies of a Change.org petition to various Goodwill headquarters across the country. The petition had already garnered one-hundred and seventy thousand signatures from Americans who demand that Goodwill pay its workers with disabilities a real wage.

Read about the petition deliveries:

Sign the Change.org petition.

To stay up-to-date on the protest and boycott activities, please follow @NFB_Voice on Twitter. Please use the hash tag #FAIRWAGES and Goodwill’s Twitter handle @GoodwillIntl to monitor and post about local protests and boycott on your own Twitter accounts. You may also become a fan of the National Federation of the Blind on Facebook, and post comments to Goodwill’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/GoodwillIntl

Research/Reference Materials

In the News

Videos

Below are videos promoting our effort to raise awareness about the injustice of subminimum-wage. 

To keep current on NFB videos and our effort to raise awareness about the injustice of subminimum-wage please suscbribe to our YouTube channel, NationsBlind

Background and History

Other Articles and Blogs

Press Releases

Policy Statements

Contact

For further information on this important issue, please contact:

Rose Sloan
Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2441
rsloan@nfb.org
 

For future updates, please follow NFB_Voice on Twitter (and please use the hashtags #FairWages and #TIMEact when posting about this issue), or sign up to receive our press releases. Please help us to achieve true equality for Americans with disabilities.