Sunday, November 24, 2013
Some Thoughts on Goodwill
I just watched a clip at Facebook regarding Goodwill and the low wages they pay some of their workers, while the CEO and regional managers rake in high salaries.
First, I was not impressed with the CEO and his comments. He called his critics "elitists," a very patronizing attitude while trying to sound professional. And he spoke in gobbledy-gook without really answering some of the reporter's questions.
However, even though my experience with Goodwill is VERY limited, it has been positive: when I worked in a public school, we had training programs aligned with Goodwill. Our students would get training at Goodwill for various types of work, then they would do job try-outs. During this job trial period, they would get paid a stipend. It was very low... about $2.00/hour. BUT, it was for a limited time, and it was considered to be part of the training experience. First they would be trained, then they would be put into the job to learn hands-on; the bit of pay was considered part of their training -- how to earn paychecks, how to deposit into the bank, how absence or illness affects one's pay, etc. Because we were a non-profit, we did not have deep pockets for paying a full salary, and the stipend was an experiential learning tool.
I believe that SOME of what the reporter was looking at was a similar thing. I noticed the very low pay rates were listed as "under contract," which to me implied that they were in a training period similar to what I just described. It seems, however, that some Goodwill locations are taking advantage of this and paying skilled workers for too long at this lower pay.
Here in Minnesota I did not ever see or hear of workers being taken advantage of so blatantly. It could be happening, but I wasn't aware of it. Many of our students, after receiving training, were then hired as regular workers at a variety of places such as Target, Goodwill itself (at minimum wage or higher), and other retail locations. They also had a banking training program which led to excellent jobs in banks, a forklift training, and an auto detailing training. Every staff member I met at Goodwill was kind hearted and interested in helping people learn. The training programs were quite good and were important stepping stones for our students.
After watching the short clip on Facebook, some readers announced, "I will never donate to Goodwill again!" I don't think this is the right response. The people affected by a dip in inventory are guess who... the disabled workers you are trying to protect. Without supplies and donations, how would they keep people employed and continue to run their training programs? I agree that the CEOs (and their board of directors, if there is one) need to take a serious look at the problem, but I urge us regular folks to continue to support Goodwill (at least here in Minnesota where I think it appears to be working well). Take other steps to communicate your dislike of the low pay situation. Contact the National Federation of the Blind to see how you can jump on their bandwagon and help create change. Don't take a drastic step of hurting your local Goodwill stores which may be far removed from the problem you saw portrayed in the Facebook clip.
That's my take on the story. Remember that a reporter's story must be short and by nature leaves out a lot of the ins and outs of the real situation. What must be done is not always so clear-cut. Learn more about it before you abandon Goodwill entirely. And definitely, if a change is needed (which it appears to be, at least in some areas), work for that change while protecting the rights of the currently employed.
That's my two cents worth!