What Minimum Wage?
Approximately 13,000 disabled people in Pennsylvania are working for less than minimum wage in Pennsylvania. In fact, there is no limit to how little they can be paid, and it has been that way since 1986. The work performed includes baking dog treats, shrink-wrapping mugs, assembling toys, folding boxes, shredding paper, and other menial tasks.
Is this Exploitation?
The question now is, are these people being given an opportunity at employment or are they being exploited? Work programs are designed to help disabled workers integrate into society and socialize with others. According to proponents, disabled workers are given a sense of purpose. Critics contend that the programs in place are treating the disabled like cheap labor, hidden from the mainstream workforce.
Goodwill Under Intense Scrutiny
There are four programs run by Goodwill in Pennsylvania paying approximately 500 disabled employees under “special minimum wages” that are based solely upon the worker’s productivity. So, if you pack more boxes than the employee next to you, your pay is higher. If you have a bad day, you may get pennies on the dollar for your efforts.
This system causes some workers to be paid well under a dollar per hour and others to get more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
‘They Are Not Employees’
The Vice President of Human Services for the Goodwill SWPA stated that the workshop program is a training tool and that the disabled workers ‘are in training and are not employees, they are in a program’. She stated that they would not be in the business of menial tasks if it did not provide a meaningful purpose for workers with disabilities.
The President of the Keystone Area Goodwill Services, based in Harrisburg, earned $290,000 in 2013. The executive director for Associated Production Services in Bucks County, a packing services non-profit, earned nearly $207,000 in salary and benefits. The average amount earned by the disabled workers there was $1.33 per hour.
Speak Up, Tell Us What You Think
So, where do we draw the line between needed social programs and honoring the workers’ right to fair compensation for services rendered? What do you think abou this issue? Use the comments form below to let us know, we may post some of your responses on the Handler, Henning & Rosenberg Facebook page.