Ceylon Cinnamon Review + Is it ethical to shop at Goodwill?

by Kristen on February 10, 2014 · 63 comments

in Q&A

This is kind of a mash-up post…I’ve got a short review to share, and then I’m also going to answer a reader question.

Oh, and you can get a free bottle of Suave at Dollar General, and in conjunction with that, I’m giving away a $50 Amazon gift card right over here.

The Review

I recently received a one-pound bag of Flavor Of The Earth Ceylon Cinnamon to try out.
Ceylon Cinnamon

Although I didn’t realize this before, the cinnamon we buy here in America is made from the cassia tree, and that’s not exactly true cinnamon. In small amounts, the cassia cinnamon is safe to use, but some people use cinnamon in much larger quantities for its health benefits.  If you’re among that crowd, ceylon cinnamon is a safer choice because cassia cinnamon contains far more coumarin than ceylon cinnamon.

I don’t consume copious amounts of cinnamon, so I was more interested in the taste of it than in the coumarin levels. So far I haven’t used it in baking, but I’ve stirred it into my chai and made cinnamon sugar with it (for sprinkling on hot cereal).

The ceylon cinnamon has a much lighter color and a more subtle flavor than cassia cinnamon. It’s tasty, but I don’t know that I think it’s better than the cinnamon I’m used to-it’s just different.

So, if you eat lots of cinnamon for its health benefits, I’d say the ceylon cinnamon is worth paying more for, and if you enjoy trying different spice flavors, you may enjoy branching out and trying a different cinnamon. But if you just use cinnamon here and there, the regular stuff (I particularly like the Saigon cinnamon they sell at Costco) should do just fine.

The Question

Kristen,

I’m an avid reader of your blog and also a frequent Goodwill shopper. This morning I came across this article in Milwaukee Magazine that I found rather unsettling.

I knew that Goodwill offered job training and hired disabled workers, but I was not aware that on average disabled workers are paid $4.30 per hour. Wondering if you already knew about this practice and what your thoughts are on this?

Thanks,
Katie

I hadn’t seen that particular article, but I’ve seen some similar ones here and there. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to think.

I mean, on the one hand, it IS really awesome that Goodwill provides employment to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to be employed in the community, and also really great that they can get training and medical care.

So, I’d say that what Goodwill is providing is significantly better than nothing.

On the other hand, it does seem that the CEO and other high-level people in the Goodwill industry could spare a little of their pay to make things a bit more equitable for their employees.

Does this make want to stop shopping at Goodwill?

Not exactly. If I were to stop shopping at Goodwill, I’d have to stop shopping at a lot of other stores whose CEOs rake in the big bucks while their employees make very little. I’d also need to completely stop shopping at stores whose inventory is made by people who are paid low wages (a.k.a. most stores in America).

Should the disabled Goodwill employees be paid more? Probably. But it would hardly be more noble of me to shop at a store stocked with sweatshop-made clothing.

Which brings me to the other reason I’m not going to stop shopping at Goodwill: by stocking used goods, they’re offering us the opportunity to breathe new life into cast-offs and by buying used goods, we can obtain some of the things we need without depending on newly manufactured goods (which have a negative environmental impact and which are frequently produced by people who aren’t treated fairly).

So at least at this point, I feel like the good that Goodwill does outweighs the bad, and I think shopping there is, at minimum, as least as ethical as shopping at standard American retailers.

_______________

I’m really curious to hear what you guys think about the Goodwill issue…please do share your thoughts in the comments!

Leave a Comment

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah Walker February 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

I used to have several patients who worked at the local Goodwill. Due to their mental illnesses they were not employable elsewhere. Oh the pride in their voices when they talked about going to work!! I would suspect that the wages are kept low in order to allow the dignity of earning a check while not disqualifying for the benefits that this population needs so greatly. Seems like a win/win to me!

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2 Lori February 10, 2014 at 8:30 am

Sarah, I was going to say the same thing. The people with disabilities that Goodwill employs are likely also receiving SSI/SSDI, that they can’t receive if they bring in more than a certain amount of money. The pay scale is probably set so that they can get some paid job training without losing their benefits.

I am a big fan of a minimum wage that is a living wage, especially as minimum wage jobs increasingly become jobs that adults and families need to live on. However, in this case, I do think it’s probably a matter of acknowledging that the disabled adults employed by Goodwill are likely receiving disability benefits, that those benefits are necessary for them because in many cases they will not be able to maintain full-time living-wage employment, and so paying them so much that they’d start losing benefits would actually be hurting them.

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3 Carolyn February 10, 2014 at 8:22 am

When Goodwill got some bad press a while back, my regional Goodwill posted on their site (and the article is still there) that while they were part of Goodwill International, compensation decisions were made locally and that all of their employees were paid at least minimum wage, regardless of ability.

The article can be found here:

http://www.goodwillnne.org/public-policy/commitment-standard-minimum-wage/

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4 Charlotte February 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

I know that a lot of people will argue with me on this, but if Goodwill had to pay workers $8.00 when they only do $4.30 worth of work in an hour, they will stop hiring disabled workers. These are not workers who are supporting a family. They are being supported by their families and government subsidies. They are workers who want to get out of the house and do something that makes them feel good. You don’t hear about other companies paying low wages to disabled workers because they don’t make it part of their company policy to hire those workers like Goodwill does. I think Goodwill is doing a great thing by hiring disabled workers.

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5 Liz @ Economies of Kale February 10, 2014 at 8:27 am

That’s interesting about Goodwill. Most thrift stores here in Australia are staffed by volunteers, but a lot of the time those volunteers are disadvantaged. But it does provide training and something to do for people who might otherwise not be able to work. Plus they are all run by non-profits so it’s not like there are CEOs getting fat off the volunteers’ work, the money does go to charity.

On another note, I can’t believe how low wages are the US. Minimum wage is about $15 an hour here!

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6 Battra92 February 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

US isn’t particularly all that low; Australia is just the highest. The US minimum wage is defined by state with a Federal minimum set at $7.50 for non-tipped employees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_in_the_United_States

The US isn’t particularly all that low considering that the cost of living in the US can be much lower than that of other developed countries (if we’re talking apples to apples; the US has a bit of an individual spending problem with larger houses, more cars etc.)

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7 Amy February 10, 2014 at 10:37 pm

The staff in Goodwill stores are paid employees who are not disabled (not usually anyway). This is not where the low rates are happening. Goodwill makes money from their thrift stores to support their mission of providing job training programs and literacy programs for people with disabilities. Their warehouses where the clients receive on-the-job training is where the lower than minimum wage occur.

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8 Jo's Country Junction February 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

I didn’t read the article so I am not exactly sure what is considered compensation for their wage. I am assuming many are still getting government assistance in the form of free housing-free transportation to and from work-an aide in their living situation that helps them manage their lives-sometimes food services depending on the facility they live in-free medical. If in deed they are getting additional help from the government, the low wage doesn’t seem so out of line as the government is already covering so many of their other expenses. As part of a college class I attended, the workers are so proud of their work and few could handle the work environment any other place. In the end, I think it’s a win for everyone.

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9 Jo February 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

I wonder if a lot of the disabled employees also collect disability and are therefore limited to how much they can earn. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. We went to church with the guy who was president and CEO of Goodwill in the area of Indiana where we lived for a short time. Super nice, kind guy who wasn’t getting fat off of his work, I’m sure!

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10 Neykoll February 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

A minimal job is better than none. The training offered can also be used in another job, so it is not as it the disabled employees MUST make that much. While I agree that the pay is rather sickening, the medical and training are very helpful. In addition most (I say most not all) disabled people get some form of help from the government, up to a certain income limit. The lower wage permits them to still work and contribute to society while not losing their benefits. Which for someone recently disabled can be a very big deal, having this as ‘normal’ as possible

Personally I don’t shop at goodwill much because the nearest one is too far to be worth the trip, but if I am in the area I would still stop in after seeing this article.

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11 Deborah Vlock February 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

Kristen, I am so glad to have found your wonderful blog!!

Regarding the Goodwill issue (and as the parent of a teen with multiple disabilities) I totally agree with Sarah. A while back, when I first read this story, I was outraged — but as I thought about it, I realized that earning too much would disqualify these workers from the crucial benefits Sarah alludes to. Yet working can be a huge boost to any person’s self-esteem. So yes, I do shop at Goodwill.

Plus, what could be better than giving new love to once (or twice)-loved stuff?

Yep: win/win!

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12 M February 10, 2014 at 8:43 am

Another thing to think about is the fact that some of these workers need to be closely supervised so an additional staff member may be needed.

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13 Meg February 10, 2014 at 8:52 am

The law does allow companies to pay disabled workers on the basis of productivity, rather than a set minimum wage. And it’s not inherently unfair. Knowing what I do about goodwill, it’s safe to assume that they figure productivity in a way that’s fair to their employees. The simplest example I can give of this though is a factory in my town that hires a number of employees with disabilities. The pay is figured like this (although the numbers are fictional):
If the average able-bodied employee is paid $10 per hour and is able o construct 100 parts per hour- then they pay their disabled employees at a rate of 10 cents per part. Now I happen to work with the program employing disabled young people in this program, and most of the people in my program end up making $3-$6 per hour when it’s said and done.

I could see how, if doing a cursory glance of the companies books, it could appear discriminitory- disabled employees are paid notable less than the others. But in actuality they are paid fairly for their work, in a way that allows the company to continue hiring them. Of this company was required to pay $10 per hour for employees that were only capable of doing 1/3-1/2 of the work, how many of the people in my program would have jobs?

Anyway, while I don’t know for sure, I would think its safe to assume that goodwill is doing something similar in some of their stores.

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14 Kris February 10, 2014 at 11:05 am

Good point, Meg. My husband has a federal government job. His workplace has contracted with Goodwill for cleaning services. (Kudos to the government for using Goodwill!) I think the Goodwill employees are all paid a flat rate. All of them work at a slow pace which would not be tolerated by most traditional corporations. It’s a tricky issue, but I know that the men who work there love their jobs and some of them have an amazing sense of commitment. It’s a great opportunity for persons who might otherwise not be able to find a job.

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15 Carole February 10, 2014 at 8:57 am

I sometimes wonder if people who can afford to pay retail should be shopping at thrift stores and snapping up the good buys before the truly needy can find them. I’ve seen documentaries that claim Goodwill is not as represented. I also wonder about the publicity about not buying things made by cheap child labor in other countries. I think that’s better than forcing impoverished people into selling their children into prostitution and other illicit activities. In the end we just have to do what seems right to us.

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16 Christy February 10, 2014 at 9:03 am

Ditto to what Lori said – my guess is the range is set so they don’t lose their benefits, but have the experience of meaningful work and earning extra income. I think that the issue here is our poverty level disability insurance benefits, not Goodwill’s pay.

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17 Susanne g February 10, 2014 at 9:06 am

I am conflicted like you. However, I believe Goodwill bases their pay on how much work a person can do and adjust the pay accordingly. For a severely disabled person, maybe that’s only 5%, and so their pay is extremely low. But I think that many disabled people are on federal disability benefits and other programs, so this work is not about a living wage. I’m not sure about that, because I’ve never really known anyone who works there, but that’s what I’ve come to believe.

I also believe that retail employees everywhere are paid too little, but that doesn’t stop me from shopping. So conflicted I remain. Thanks for your thoughtful blog FG!

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18 Kathy February 10, 2014 at 9:31 am

I think all the points are well taken. I just want to suggest that those of us who are commenting on this issue – including myself! – be careful not to start thinking of ” the disabled” as a big distant group. I know for sure that the distance between me and the “less fortunate” are non- existent in God’s view.
I am sorry to be preachy – before I became a stay at home mom, I was a medical reporter who focused on the health problems of those who had disabilities. And I was regularly humbled by these folks.
Pwho specialized in the

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19 Sarah February 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm

As a big sister to a deeply autistic little brother, thank you Kathy for this. It’s conflicting because obviously if he worked at goodwill he would not be able to do the same work as a non-autistic person but his value as a human being is equivalent.

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20 Peg February 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

It’s possible that since they are providing “education” that the wage goes down because of employing a student being taught a skill for “free.” This benefits the employee and employee tax-wise as well.

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21 Mara February 10, 2014 at 9:23 am

I used to work with a company that provided services to disabled individuals (both work/day and home care) Most of them made very little money. In most instances it was related to their government benefits. Because they received subsidies from various federal programs they couldn’t (legally) earn much money. Those who earned “a lot” might earn $150/two weeks. If they could earn a normal wage they didn’t need federal subsidies. Goodwill may be in a similar situation. Also, if it is teaching life skills and giving good work experience it serves a good purpose, regardless of pay.

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22 Marie February 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

I love the Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

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23 carrie February 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

Disabled people get social security benefits and medicaid. Perhaps the low pay is to prevent them from disqualifying?

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24 carrie February 10, 2014 at 9:52 am

…clearly I should read comments before posting my own lol!

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25 Gladys February 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

I like shopping at Goodwill, needless to say all the bargains I get for our girls’ clothes. I know few people who don’t like the store at all, some reasons are: they don’t like second-hand clothes/items and they don’t like how they price them but I didn’t know they pay disabled employees that low, maybe it depends on every state, I guess. And if this is true, it’s sad to know.

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26 Jessica February 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

I am personally not crazy about shopping at Goodwill because of what I have heard. I prefer to shop local thrift stores because I feel like their benefit is more directly related to my local economy and my community. I won’t say that I never shop Goodwill, but I like the other thrift stores in my town better.

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27 WilliamB February 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

“but some people use cinnamon in much larger quantities for its health benefits. If you’re among that crowd, ceylon cinnamon is a safer choice because cassia cinnamon contains far more coumarin than ceylon cinnamon.”

Or they could use less of the more potent item.

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28 Kristen February 10, 2014 at 10:39 am

Well, I think to get the health benefits, you’re supposed to eat something like a teaspoon a day, no matter what kind of cinnamon it is. So if you were using it for the antioxidants, you’d want to buy Ceylon so that you’re not accidentally consuming too much coumarin.

(Although from my research, it seems that not everyone is sensitive to coumarin, so I suppose you’d have to figure out if you were!)

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29 WilliamB February 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

From a medical point of view, I don’t see how that can be accurate. A dose isn’t a known dose if the concentration varies. For example, regular strength Motrin is a 400mg pill, an extra strength one is 800mg. So if the dose is 800mg, the dose is either 2 regular pills or 1 extra strength pill.

The same applies to cinnamon. The dose shouldn’t be “1 teaspoon of cinnamon, no matter how much [beneficial nutrient] that is.” The dose should be “X mg of [beneficial nutrient], no matter how much cinnamon that is.”

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30 Kristen February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Are you maybe thinking the coumarin is the nutrient people are trying to get? Coumarin can be dangerous for some people, so they’re trying to get the good stuff that’s in cinnamon without getting so much coumarin.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you! :)

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31 WilliamB February 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I was, indeed, thinking coumarin was the nutrient. (Although my point about dosage is still correct, through the magic of Accurate Information, it has suddenly become irrelevant. My apologies.)

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32 Mairsydoats February 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm

On the subject of Cinnamon, though not on its nutritional value – Cooks Illustrated explains why the flavor varies:
https://www.cooksillustrated.com/taste_tests/479-cinnamon

“The magic of Accurate Information…” made me snort my tea, by the way. Kudos to you!

33 Diedra B February 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

Thanks for that point about the highly paid CEOs. I do shop at many different stores for first-hand products and lots of unethical stuff can be connected with those types of stores. Maybe Goodwill isn’t so bad if stuff is being kept out of the landfill and people are employed and encouraged who might not otherwise be.

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34 Vicki . February 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

I have a brother who is autistic and receives government benefits. He has held a few part time jobs, but they have to be very careful that he doesn’t earn too much and end up losing his benefits. He has a job coach who helps figure it all out for him. When he is working, he is just proud that he has a job, and gets a paycheck. I don’t think he even understands that he could not support himself on his paycheck, he just knows it makes him more like other people.

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35 David February 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

Well it seems to me that people should be paid a minimum wage – especially if there are CEO’s and other “Executives” that are being paid millions. After all if Goodwill is saving $5 an hour by under paying a person and they have a million people dong that, and working 40 hours a week, all it does is give the already way over paid executive another $200 million to share out among them selves!
Having got that off my chest I also have to point out that if we were to stop shopping at Goodwill the workers would have NO job! So they wouldn’t even have $3 or $4 an hour.
The fact is that people with the smarts to rip off the system will take all that they can and the poor unfortunates with low IQ’s, mental and physical disabilities etc have to depend on a few humanists to try to help them as best as they can.
Money is King in the US. The top 1% in the US own 50 % of its wealth. Trying to fight that fact can be very frustrating.
Just saying.

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36 Meg February 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

But the point is, if they are paying people based on ability them they aren’t saving $5 an hour by paying someone less than minimum wage, they still have to pay someone else to get the rest of the work done. If I can only work at half the speed/ability of the “average” worker- and I therefore make 1/2 the pay per hour, no one is “banking” the other half of my pay- the other half of my work still has to be done, and someone will get paid to do that.

If it takes the able-bodied, typical worker 40 hours a week to stock shelves- they can pay one person $8 per hour at 40 hours a week to stock shelves, or they can pay 2 disables workers $4 per hour each to work at half speed.

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37 Suzanne February 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

I may have to play Devil’s advocate on this issue, but I believe all workers, regardless of where you work, the nature of your business, or social status should be paid at least minimum wage. I would think that Goodwill receives tax breaks for hiring disabled workers. I’ve read where some say if an employee is disabled, they should be thankful for any money earned, but working for so little (maybe even 22 cents an hour – see link below) is exploitation. Where is the Good Will in that?

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/06/24/2201101/goodwill-pays-cents-per-hour/

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38 Tina February 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I have to agree with you. As a manager at a UK charity aimed at helping disabled people (handicapped is considered politically incorrect here) into employment, I would not work with any employer who saw fit to pay less to a disabled person than to an able-bodied person, and they would be in breach of our Disability Discrimination Act.

Here our welfare system ensures that disabled people get some financial assistance, but the emphasis across the UK is on equality. Equality of access and opportunity. Many of my disabled customers do volunteer work (most charity shops here are manned only by volunteers – they wouldn’t survive if they paid wages, and as such are staffed mainly by retired people) but this is usually a stepping stone to them getting paid employment. There are employment programmes for severely disabled people, but even they are entitled to draw the same minimum wage as everyone else.

As for the argument that they are ‘less productive’, I hope everyone here can vouch that they are 100% productive at work. I’m certainly not, but I draw down 100% of salary.

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39 Lori February 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I’m not sure how it works in the UK, but in the US, you lose your SSDI benefits if you earn more than a certain amount of money (or, I think, if you are employed more than a certain number of hours).

I think we’re talking specifically about severely disabled people here. I don’t think we’re talking about, say, a school hiring a deaf teacher and paying them less than the hearing teachers: I’m pretty sure that would be 100% illegal and discriminatory under US law. I don’t think we’re talking about Goodwill hiring people with disabilities who would be capable of performing a “regular” job if appropriate accommodations were made, but hiring people who are severely intellectually or mentally disabled that they really could not obtain or perform a “regular” job even with reasonable accommodations.

I have an aunt who is severely intellectually disabled. She lives in a group home and her living expenses are all covered by SSDI. She doesn’t need income. However, for the last decade or so, she’s worked at a nearby charity (not Goodwill) stuffing envelopes about 10 hours a week. She doesn’t get paid close to minimum wage, and I can’t imagine they’d have hired her if they had to, because she requires another worker there to act as her aide while she’s working. But, she loves her job. She loves going to work and having a job and talking to coworkers. This isn’t about the organization exploiting her labor, because they honestly could probably get somebody to volunteer for an hour and stuff the number of envelopes she’s paid to stuff in her ten. It’s about her being provided with an opportunity to work and have a taste of independence that she wouldn’t otherwise have.

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40 Tarynkay February 10, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I haven’t read through all of the comments, so forgive me if someone else has mentioned this. But the Goodwill jobs in question are likely considered sheltered workshop jobs (this is the legal term for this.) This means that the individuals doing them need to be closely supervised- they often have a job coach working alongside of them. I have a cousin with Down Syndrome who works at a restaurant in a similar situation. She does not earn minimum wage because she is not actually doing a whole job- she is doing the parts of the job that she is capable of doing and she finds enormous pride in this.

Most importantly, income from sheltered workshop jobs is not counted when determining whether an individual qualifies for Social Security disability. You can’t earn over $1000/month and qualify for SSI, but more importantly, you can’t work at all and qualify for certain disabilities. The ability to hold a regular job at all is seen as evidence of high enough cognitive functioning to disqualify individuals when a cognitive disability is claimed.

Just having a disability does NOT mean that you will be paid less. The Americans with Disabilities Act sees to that. Workplaces are also required by law to make reasonable accommodations. People with disabilities work in every field and make the same wages as their typically-abled coworkers.

Having a disability that necessitates an on-site job coach DOES mean that you will be paid less. This is not unethical. It is not even about paying according to productivity. The fact is, it is not a regular job. It is a sheltered workshop situation.

I have another cousin who works at Goodwill. She spent years in and out of jail, dealing with drug addiction. She went through the Goodwill job training program and is worked her way up to managing a store. She makes enough to live independently now, so I think they must be paying her fairly. Many companies will not even hire people if they have any criminal record, so I love that Goodwill gave her a chance. By the way, I think this has been addressed on this site before, but she says please, buy stuff. The more you buy at Goodwill, the more money they have to run programs to help people. They do not need more stuff, they have plenty of that. They need more money from people buying the stuff.

Most non-profits have extravagantly paid CEOs. I wouldn’t single out Goodwill as the worst offender when it comes to this.

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41 Susanna February 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

hope my post doesn’t show up twice! it said I didn’t enter my name and email then it was gone!
anyways, I dislike how charities pay so much to CEOs and higher ups- my job used to take payroll deductions for UNICEF then there was talk about the 6 figure and up salaries so I think they stopped after so many employees cancelled.
I dont’ shop much at Goodwill or Salvation Army – my parents stopped as well – when they quit using the older stores and built expensive buildings in pricier areas. the prices went high- there have been no $3 jeans barely used at mine! even books and vhs tapes are high IMO. When I do shop at a charity shop I go to Pennywise, a local shop that benefits battered women and their children for a local county. They sell out of an abandoned lumber/hardware store and even in the warmer spring months they keep the a/c off until it gets really hot to save money and make more for the charity. the prices aren’t dirt cheap but not gonna break the bank either. they will probably deal some though I’ve never asked them to do so – I figure it’s a worthwhile charity so I’m usually ok to pay the price or I leave the item hoping someone else will pay that price.

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42 Jacqueline February 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I agree on the Goodwill issue. (Although I rarely shop there because in my area it’s more expensive than the other thrift stores around.) I’m not sure about the disabled workers, either. I think that might depend on whether you compare it to other jobs, or to whatever therapy, etc. is available to people in those situations. One of my favorite thrift stores exists for the purpose of giving developmentally disabled people something meaningful to do, and all profits go back into the organization. You have to wait a little longer while you’re getting ringed up, but it’s so neat to see how much satisfaction some of the workers get by doing their job well, even if it’s with step by step supervision!

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43 Leslie February 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I think if you’re evaluating the ethics of where you shop that will be a wholly personal/family descision. I don’t shop at Goodwill for a few different reasons but mainly because there is a local thrift shop that supports our county’s battered women’s shelter that I prefer to support. But if I lived in an area where I didn’t have my choice of thrift options is absolutely support Goodwill. If you are willing to take the time to learn about the impact of your purchases and make intentional choices then I have no complaints about any of your choices.

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44 Barb February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I have not read all the way through the comments first. However, folks on SS or SSI, either one, are limited in the amount that thy can receive. I would be curious if this dollar amount allows them to keep their medicaid and disability payments. Earning a “real paycheck” could be more damaging than than helpful int his case

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45 Monica J. February 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

This is another instance where I really enjoy Kristen’s thoughtful and thought-provoking articles about what could be such a controversial subject. By just hearing that workers aren’t being paid the same as other workers, people can easily jump on the bandwagon of discrimination/equality/etc. But when Kristen calmly explains the additional information, you see the situation in a new light. I wish news journalists were that thorough when they write about issues. The comments that I read so far have also been very informative. Clear thinking vs. emotional thinking. Thank you!

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46 Skirnir Hamilton February 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

From what I know, I would think the employees in the thrift stores themselves are paid a bit better, but some probably aren’t paid minimum wage. I know Goodwill has job training programs where you are paid by the piece often times, and yeah, that isn’t going to add up to minimum wage. One person I know I believe worked through Goodwill Industries, and he saw people who stripped toilet paper rolls for recycling and other such things. Things that if they had to pay minimum wage for, they would just build a machine to do it. So I get not always paying minimum wage, but I wonder if those in the stores themselves who are disabled, not all are, are close to minimum wage or not. The store I used to frequent, before I moved, had a disabled person running the dressing room and returning items to shelves, but most of the clerks did not seem to be disabled. Never really thought about it. But as others have mentioned, I found when Goodwill built a new building, their prices were crazy. They went from $.10 a canning jar to $1 and well, I could buy a dozen at my local grocery store for $9, so buying used at Goodwill was more expensive than buying new at a local grocery and that is without shopping around at Walmart or other places. So I stopped frequenting Goodwill much.

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47 Alice February 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I’m with you on the Goodwill question – I’m glad when places do pay all workers minimum wage, but I understand why they don’t always. From what I’ve heard from a few folks in the disability rights community, the law allowing for productivity based compensation was meant to encourage programs that combine a traditional job with a more intensively supervised skill-building approach – situations where the job itself is structured differently than it would be for a nondisabled person. Those programs are great, and I want them to be able to continue.

But I wish that they were set apart as a different type of job entirely, so that the compensation issue would be clearer. The current system just divides things up based on whether the *worker* is disabled, and that can encourage the idea that *all* people with disabilities will be less productive. A lot of folks who are Deaf, blind, have CP or other issues may need some accommodations to get set up, but their jobs are the same as they would be if a nondisabled person were doing them.

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48 BethJ February 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I read the article, and some posts, and I think we’re clear to continue shopping at GoodWill.

In my area, GW’s hire handicapped folks ranging from fairly capable to nearly not at all. I don’t know their payscale, but I know there are part-time workers whose work capability is small. These are the mentally disabled folks who will always need a ride to work and a capable co-worker to guide, encourage, and help them as they work. So, GW is paying someone to assist the disabled worker…which adds to GW’s cost of operation.

The opportunity to work part-time for a little extra money adds value to the life of the mentally disabled person. There is pride in productivity, and there is happy social interaction going on. I’d sure hate to see that end by requiring GW to increase the payscale so much that they couldn’t afford to train and help these worthy folks.

Our local GWs vary a lot in pricing, friendliness, cleanliness, and policy. Much of it is a buyer beware situation! They may verbally assure you that all the electronics have been tested and work perfectly, including that $39 stereo with the “AS IS no returns” sticker on it…then you find that the volume control dial doesn’t work and the CD player is broken and the speakers are all staticky…beware and always test for yourself!

It can be a scary place to shop…I’ve seen a black widow spider and spider egg sacs on the bottom side of furniture…found marijuana in a suit pocket…black mold inside a Coleman cooler…

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an incomplete (missing pieces) chess set there in terrible condition, plastic pieces, in a stinky, dirty, scratched-up box, for $8.95…not very sensible pricing! But last week I found an intricately-carved travel-size marble chess set. for $1.25, in perfect condition. The set comes in a solid wood box…the top of the box is a beautiful hand-inlaid marble chess board. Inside the box is a perfect-condition (clean and odor-free) blue velvet lined interior with fitted spots to hold each chess piece. *VERY* nice! They could have probably put that marble chess set in the glass case with a $25 price tag on it, and it would have sold…

So…just shop carefully, and be kind to everyone who works there!

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49 Angela February 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I have 5 Goodwills in my area and only one of them employs disabled workers. There’s some type of law from the 1930′s that allows employers to pay less than minimum wage to people with disabilities. Apparently, back in the 30′s the decision was made on the basis that a disabled worker couldn’t work as fast or as good as normal worker. I don’t know about you but I’ve seen mentally challenged workers sweep a floor, faster, better, and with more pride than a lot of today’s teenagers. It is an outdated law that allows a disabled worker to be paid less than minimum wage. Also wondering who is representing that disabled worker that they would support them taking a job for pennies an hour. If their income is limited because of SSI, they should still be paid at least minimum wage, just maybe only work a couple of hours a day. Also, I found on the IRS.gov website the Work Opportunity Credit where employers are given an incentive to hire disabled workers:
Work Opportunity Credit
The Work Opportunity Credit provides eligible employers with a tax credit up to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of first-year wages of a new employee if the employee is part of a “targeted group.” An employee with a disability is one of the targeted groups for the Work Opportunity Credit, provided the appropriate government agencies have certified the employee as disabled. The credit is available to the employer once the employee has worked for at least 120 hours or 90 days.

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50 Lori February 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I may be wrong, but I don’t think it’s legal to pay somebody less than minimum wage simply because they are disabled. If, for example, an employee with Down Syndrome at a fast food place is performing the same tasks as their coworkers, they can’t be paid a fraction of what their coworkers make. That would be discriminatory and a violation of the ADA. A company can’t pay a computer programmer in a wheelchair less than a computer programmer who can walk, or a teacher who is blind less than a teacher who can see. We’re talking specifically about cases of severe mental or intellectual impairment, and in those cases a person’s living, medical, and personal expenses are already going to be covered by SSI.

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51 BethJ February 10, 2014 at 4:23 pm

It should be illegal to pay a disabled worker less than someone else doing the same job! But maybe in the case that they are not really capable of doing the same work, only part of the work, it might make a difference. Probably they are individuals who is totally supported by SSI?

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52 Aimee February 10, 2014 at 7:11 pm

On my phone, so keepjng this short. Shopping secondhand does all kinds of good, from keeping good out of the waste stream to keeping money out kf the pockets of comapnies that use sweatshop/slave labor. Other atires besides goodwill also give revenue to hardwoeking charities. Goodwill probides free job training and literacy programs. Keep shopping there!

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53 Kat c February 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm

This is a very interesting discussion – many years ago I worked as a support worker for adults with developmental disabilities. I worked with three adults in the kitchen of a daycare, and the four of us together did the work of what one cook would do. I organized and delegated tasks and they did whatever they were capable of. The three of them split the wage one cook would be paid, and I was paid by an agency that received government funding. This money gave them something extra on top of their government stipend for living expenses (which was reduced if they made too much money).

During the time I worked there, this type of arrangement fell out of favourite, and the 3 had to leave. One stayed on as a volunteer in the day at kitchen, but with less support. One was able to find work as a dishwasher at a restaurant, for minimum wage, and therefore lost his government stipend, at least for a time. The third worked odd jobs but was unable to find something she could do for a paid wage on a regular basis.

I think, there is a place for this type of employment, although not for every person with a disability.

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54 Connie February 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

As a parent of a special needs daughter, I can relate to both sides of this issue. As I am from Canada, I am not sure how your social system works in supporting people with disabilities but I can provide information as to how it works in the province of Alberta. Here, disabled people receive a monthly allowance from the provincial government. This is funded by the taxes that the working population pay. I am grateful that this support system is in place, because without it, my daughter would have not income and therefore, would fall under our care for the rest of our lives. She also is entitled to work, if possible, and there is a monthly amount that she can make before her social benefits are cut. She has a part-time job that she goes to and her wage, while not drastically low, is lower than her able-minded co-workers. I do not mind this at all. First of all, I realize that she cannot provide the same output as her co-workers, therefore, if her employer was forced to provide an equal wage, she would not have a job because it would cost more to employ her than the profit she would generate. Secondly, I am grateful that she can supply a service, however insignificant it may seem to others, that gives her a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Truthfully, I would almost feel like paying her wage myself just to give her a sense of purpose. There is also, the issue of the time and effort it takes to train such a person to be successful in their position. All of these things may be easy to forget when we look at the smaller ‘equal-wage’ picture. Not sure if this can relate to the US but thought it may give some food for thought.

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55 Winnie February 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Most disable workers live on disability checks and have medicaid for the medical expenses. Whether we like it or not if they have a job and make over a certain amount most of the time these are cut. Most disabled employees know this and agree to the lower wage due to the job helps them with job skills and extra income. It may not be right for them to do this but ask the workers who are disabled first please.

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56 Amanda February 12, 2014 at 6:36 am

We have this system in Australia (it’s called the Supported Wage System) and as a parent of a child with disability I am absolutely opposed to it. Show me a 100% productive non-disabled worker. They don’t exist. The whole premise of this system is flawed, and the assumption of many commenters, that ‘these workers’ do not have families or responsibilities is also flawed. I know several people employed on supported wages here in Australia who have children, pay rent and have responsibilities. This system is used to justify discrimination and is based on assumptions about people with disability that are just not true: that any job is better than none even if wages and conditions are sub-standard, that a person with disability is inherently ‘less than’ a non-disabled person, that a person with disability doesn’t need any better anyway and should just be happy to take it. Replace ‘person with disability’ with any other minority or equity group and see how unacceptable that sounds.

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57 Sarah February 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm

My little brother is severely disabled and I appreciate you mentioning that “any job is better than none” mentality among some people. Our loved ones who have autism, down’s syndrome, etc… shouldn’t be given bottom of the barrel type work. I once saw a wonderful program somewhere in the States where very autistic persons were able to run a food co-op. They participated in the planting, picking, and packing of produce. I wish I could start something similar.

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58 Carissa February 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I wonder if the reason for the low wages for disabled workers at Goodwill is due to the government subsidies and benefits that these workers get. Most government sponsored programs will stop giving money and other benefits (such as health care) to disabled individuals if they make over a certain amount of money. I think that there is something else that would explain why these workers are make less than the federal minimum wage. Otherwise, Goodwill would not be able to pay them so little.

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59 Kristine February 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

Hi! I wanted to hopefully shed a little light on the goodwill issue. My brother worked for a long time in a sheltered workshop and it enabled him to move into part time employment in a regular workplace. These types of employment are so important, and not just for the job skills they provide. Individuals who work in a sheltered workshop, like goodwill, are also on federal disability and Medicaid. If they were to hold a full time job, or be paid minimum wage, they would lose all their benefits, which are essential for their living costs, and to keep many of them in the group homes they need! Also, what goodwill is offering isn’t just money, but it is a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Please support organizations like goodwill, because these workshops are far and few between, and we could use more of them!

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60 Karen Catalano February 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hello,
I know this is in response to an older post, but I was cleaning out my email, found this and felt compelled to comment on the Goodwill workers’ wages. I work for Sonoma County Office of Education in Northern California, in a program which trains students aged 18-22 y.olds in work-experience. Our students are paid a ‘training’ rate of pay, which is arrived at by comparing their work with that of non-disabled workers. Their pay starts at $4/hr and tops out at $8. I believe Goodwill Industries applies a similar formula in arriving at their wages for disabled employees. Also, bear in mind that folks with disabilities receive other sources of income assistance due to the nature of their disability. I hope this is of some help.

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61 robin February 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I have a few friends who are mentally disabled (i.e. down syndrome) and I work teaching life skills (social skills, keeping track of money) to young mentally disabled adults, who are generally considered unemployable, but are employed at various jobs (not Goodwill) for about half of the minimum wage in our area. Quite often 2 disabled workers will share one job and the wages that go with that position, be it packing groceries at stores, working in the kitchen at restaurants, folding clothes and organizing at second hand stores. The pride of being employed and making money is invaluable to their sense of self-worth and happiness, plus they often enjoy sharing a job with a friend. I would fear that employers could not provide this employment opportunity to these individuals if they were forced to pay more.

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62 Amanda March 15, 2014 at 1:38 am

For those who believe that having any job, even at below minimum wage, is ok because people with disability receive other benefits and they are happy just to have a job, I’d draw your attention to the article in today’s New York Times detailing the disgraceful abuse of the supported wage system in Atalissa. I am by no means stating that Goodwill treats their staff with disability in this way: what I am saying is that this system is by it’s very nature discriminatory at its heart, and making a case on the basis that people with disability would not be employed elsewhere, are happy to have a job, or receive other benefits is nonsensical. You cannot justify discrimination by arguing that someone would be discriminated against if that system was not in place. In the NYT article. The townspeople of Atalissa believed that the men with intellectual disability were genuinely happy in their employment – they only discovered many years later that they were suffering decades of financial and physical abuse.

This conversation has genuinely upset me, I have to say. As a parent of a young lady with disability it concerns me that well-meaning people would think that she should have fewer workplace rights than non-disabled people. I encourage you to consider your workplace behaviour. Are you 100% productive at all times? Do you waste time in the workplace chatting, checking Facebook or the internet or otherwise wasting your boss’ time? No person is 100% productive. The premise of the system is flawed. I have worked with people with disability who are more productive than the so-called ‘productive’ workers and yet who are paid 20% less simply because the law allows it on the basis of their disability. I hope as more cases make their way to court, these laws will go the way of Jim Crow and others. And yes, I’m very disappointed in Goodwill.

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63 Connie March 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

As a parent with a disabled daughter I have to say that I am on the opposite side of the fence as Amanda. While. I too, would love for my daughter to be considered “equal” in all respects, when it comes to her abilities to perform in a workplace, sadly she is not. Hence she benefits from our equitable social system that provides an equitable income that she herself does not have the ability to earn. The funding for this income comes from the taxes paid by her co-workers and employer as well as the rest of the tax-paying work force in our country. To demand that these people should be required to pay her the same wage as her fully-functioning counterparts to me seems ludicrous and greedy.

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