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Goodwill Industries uses federal exemption to pay workers below minimum wage


On the factory floor at Goodwill Industries of South Florida, cerebral palsy doesn’t stop Donnie Williams from stitching one button hole after another into the military trousers the Miami non-profit makes for the Pentagon.

But workplace productivity calculations did conclude the disability prevents the 58-year-old from stitching as many button holes as would someone without the condition. As a result, Williams earns $4.22 an hour, according to a Goodwill supervisor, about 45 percent below Florida’s minimum hourly wage of $7.79.

The gap is allowed under a federal program designed to create jobs for people with significant disabilities, both as a way to train them for a spot in the workforce and to help them lead more active lives. Disclosure forms show Goodwill in recent years paid some workers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale less than 40 cents an hour, while the average wage hit $4.76 for nearly 300 garment workers like Williams in the program. More here.