Harry Smith talks about Goodwill's wage war

6:03 PM, Jun 21, 2013   |    comments
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NEW YORK (KSDK) - This might be the time of year you're cleaning out your closet and donating to places like Goodwill.

You get a tax write off, someone else gets to buy what you donated at a discount, and it keeps people employed.

But as NBC's Harry Smith tells us, there is a wage war going on concerning Goodwill. It's a story he's working on for Rock Center Friday night at 9 p.m. 

Click the video player above for a preview of the story.

But can the same be said in Missouri?  NewsChannel 5 went inside Goodwill at 4200 Forest Park Parkway.  An upstairs workspace is usually booming with up to 80 employees working manual labor jobs for all skill levels.  The idea is to give work to those who can't find it otherwise.

Now, here's the catch: according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, employers can get certain certificates from the Department of Labor that gives them the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage.

"Even people with severe disabilities, the antiquated belief that they cannot be productive employees is just false," said Anil Lewis, who is with the National Federation of the Blind.  "There are strategies out there today that help people with such significant disabilities obtain gainful employment that there's no reason for this obsolete model of sheltered employment and sub-minimum wages to exist."

"Our sheltered workshop loses money every year," argues Dave Kutchback of MERS Goodwill in St. Louis.  "It's not a for-profit entity. It's a program to serve individuals, and we're very proud of that program."

Employees in Missouri cannot be paid lower than 10 percet of minimum wage. That means the lowest pay you could see at any of the 93 sheltered workshops in the state is $0.73.




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